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.

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