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Jessica Albers

"In a remote school, every day brings something new! These communities are incredibly dynamic places that offer so many interesting and remarkable opportunities."

 

As a teacher at Yandeyarra, I am responsible for upper secondary teaching, this includes planning, delivery, reporting and compliance for courses and programs. I am our schools VET coordinator organising work placements, TAFE and industry skills training programs. In addition to these responsibilities, I teach Technologies, Maths and HaSS to a multi-age group Year 4 to Year 10 and am the ICT, NAPLAN, events and whole school nutrition coordinator.

A normal day includes running the breakfast club and whole school nutrition program, teaching, coordinating after school clubs and activities. Every day involves significant community liaison and interaction with parents, carers, and a large amount of interagency collaboration with a diverse range of service providers including Foodbank, Population Health, Mission Australia, Child Australia, EON Foundation, sporting groups and many mining companies. For example, we were recently visited by Leadership WA executive group as a knowledge building exercise for senior executives. I liaised with families and community members to prepare and serve kangaroo stew, tails and damper for the visitors, and organised students to guide the Executive team through our School Community Edible Garden. For many of the executives this was their first time in visiting a remote community and speaking with community members, all of whom are Aboriginal, and of course eating “Roo Stew”.

Most visitors who come to Yandeyarra are surprised at how neat the school grounds are, and comment on how lovely the atmosphere is, and unique school – community relationships. Our school is the largest employer of community members and as such is the main source of employment in the community.

Visitors and community members enjoy visiting our school-community kitchen garden, and enjoy participating in community training and activities hosted at school. We have a very supportive and knowledgeable Principal who has the best interests of the students and community at heart.

Having grown up in the Kimberley, I moved to Perth to attend boarding school and then University. Whilst in Perth, I was fortunate enough to gain a position as a tutor for Aboriginal students as part of the Follow the Dream Program, Aboriginal Aspirant program.  I worked with a great group of high school students from across WA, living in Perth. I really enjoyed every moment working as part of the program, and had many opportunities to work in partnership with teachers to support Year 12 attainments for my students.

This role gave me an incredible insight into the difficulties students and their families face in leaving their community gaining an education and work. I learnt a lot about family and cultural matters, and events in Aboriginal communities across WA, in addition to curriculum across multiple learning areas and the structures and processes of a high school.

I was so moved by how much the students worked for success, despite a myriad of challenges including a new environment, hostility and at times racism. It was my work as a Follow the Dream Tutor, and the relationships I formed with the students that gave me the passion to further my career in Aboriginal Education. With my second degree, I became a Teacher, with the specific interest of working to improve the educational outcomes for Aboriginal students.

I further developed involvement with Aboriginal communities as a trainer; I delivered needs specific training to a variety of Aboriginal corporations and organisations and designed and delivered a Cert 1 Business specifically tailored to the needs of remote Aboriginal communities.

When an opportunity came up to work at Yandeyarra School, I was excited to be able to influence and support students, within communities, not just those students already living in Perth. Here I really learnt how important relationships are,  along with the ability to deal with and cope with change – nothing is static and change is the norm.

Living and working in a remote school is both challenging and inspiring. Every school and context is different. There are the unique challenges of distance, isolation caused by flooding and limited communication at times, however these are all part of the experience!

To be an effective teacher in a remote school, you need to be committed to improving the educational outcomes for Aboriginal students, be willing to work hard and build relationships, have a solid work ethic, be a contributor and be largely self-reliant. When you’re in a small school and remote community, you can’t wait for someone else to do it for you!

There are many financial benefits to working remote such as district allowances, subsidised rent and utilities as well as travel allowances for trips to Perth and your closest major centre. The career benefits are huge as you have the opportunity to learn a lot about many different areas, and are not ‘pigeonholed’ into any particular teaching area. In a small school, you have direct involvement in school planning and activities that are often reserved for senior staff in larger centres. This allows you to build you knowledge and experiences across many areas, which will allow you to find your passion and build a new skill sets.

As a teacher in a remote school, you have the privilege of experiencing and learning things that most people do not ever get to access. I would recommend that anyone considering a teaching position try at least one practicum in a rural or remote location, and to get involved with Aboriginal education programs and initiatives.

Where I live.

Yandeyarra is a remote Aboriginal Community located in the Pilbara, 1600 kilometres from Perth and 146 kilometres south-east of the nearest town, Port Hedland. The Yule River runs by the outskirts of the community and often floods during the wet season, isolating the community for extended periods of time. Yandeyarra is a quiet and peaceful place with an incredibly rich history. It is located on an Aboriginal reserve and strong links to the pastoral industry, particularly the 1946 Pastoral Workers Strike. The landscape surrounding Yandeyarra is spectacular and features extensive spinifex plains, creeks and impressive rock formations. The sunny, warm weather is wonderful as I am not fond of winter!

I am proud to be part of a school that works hard to provide students and the community the best opportunities available and that is highly regarded. Yandeyarra School really is a central element of the community and is a welcoming place for all students, parents and families. I enjoy contributing to the school, and wider community.

I have been fortunate enough to have had opportunities to make a real difference to the educational outcomes and achievement standards for Aboriginal students. It is wonderful to see students being successful, despite many challenges, and know that you have been part of that journey. Hard work really makes success more enjoyable.

My three pieces of advice for anyone studying teaching are:
  • Challenge yourself – you don’t know if you will enjoy something until you try
  • Make learning relevant and contextualised
  • Be prepared to take advice and be willing to negotiate to achieve desired outcomes.