Schools From new educator to organiser

Katerina Duckstein has recently joined the team at the AEU, working as a graduate teacher/universities organiser alongside Adam Surmacz. She writes about her experiences as a new educator and unionist.

My union story began during my childhood. My father is a state councillor for the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and my mother is a teacher and long-standing member of the AEU. I have fond memories of marching down the streets of Melbourne as a child with my parents as they took action in support of their professions. 

As a pre-service teacher, I made sure I signed up as a student member of the union. Being a member helped me feel protected when I was out on my rounds and I attended lots of the AEU’s professional development sessions focused on getting a job. It was extremely helpful to hear from principals about what they were looking for in an application and during an interview. 

The New Educators Network was a space for me to feel connected to like-minded individuals from other schools.

Once out teaching full time as a graduate, I found it overwhelming. I contacted the AEU for support, and they were able to answer the questions I had about workload and communicating with my mentor. In my second year of teaching, I was much more settled – finally, I felt as if I was standing on both feet.

At the time, I worked at a new school and noticed that there was not a cohesive group of AEU members. I took the opportunity of becoming the union secretary and built an amazing sub-branch with two of my colleagues. We worked very closely together and in turn my activism level greatly increased.

During this time, I developed my leadership and communication skills. I joined the New Educators activist program, which was an important stepping-stone in my AEU journey. From there, I became more involved and joined the New Educators Network. This was a space for me to feel connected to like-minded individuals from other schools.

After a few years working in many schools in Melbourne’s north, I decided to do some casual relief teaching. Not only was this a change from having the same class every day, I found it challenging to be disconnected from my colleagues. I continued to take part in regional meetings to stay connected with the AEU.

The AEU has provided me with a network and community of people who want every workplace to be safe.

I know everyone’s union experience varies, but I want to be a guide for student teachers and new educators, so that they can feel supported in their workplaces and know there is a huge community of people advocating for their needs.

In short, I would say that the AEU has provided me with a network and community of people who want every workplace to be safe. I want to make a difference in public education, and my role as the graduate teacher/universities organiser will allow me to share my own experiences and give others the tools and resources to make positive changes in their work-life.

I am excited to get to know the next generation of new educators so we can work together – in solidarity – to make sure you have a wonderful experience in your classrooms.

    * mandatory fields

    Filed under

    Latest issue out now

    Australia's public education system is open to everyone. That's why it deserves the support of every Australian. AEU members working in public education continue to do the heavy lifting within the education system, doing more with less, fighting for equity, and seeking the best possible outcomes for their students, often against the odds. Read more in our Term 2, 2023 edition of AEU News.

    View Latest Edition