Going beyond the classroom
Early in her Bachelor of Education (Primary), Anabel Mifsud had a moment of panic.
“Full-time classroom teaching wasn’t for me. I felt I couldn’t holistically support children and families enough, and though I love learning and teaching, there’s so much that comes into play before children are even ready to learn each day,” she said.
“It was a scary time of not knowing whether I should continue with the degree or quit entirely. The further I got the more I realised that this was just one steppingstone in a much longer journey.
“I continued volunteering, talking to colleagues on placements, researching and learned there’s so much more to a Bachelor of Education than just classroom teaching. I’ve worked as an education leader in out of school hours care, a tour guide at the National Dinosaur Museum, a private tutor, nanny, and babysitter; in individual disability support; with SHINE for Kids; and as a casual relief teacher. Who knows what’s next?”
Answering the call
Anabel always knew working with kids was her calling, so naturally teaching was her first instinct.
“Growing up, everyone would tell me that I was destined to be a teacher,” Anabel said.
“I was spoiled for choice as almost every university offers a Bachelor of Education. I chose ACU for its great reputation and small size of the Canberra Campus. Coming from a small high school in a regional town I was eager to find a university that would allow me to really get to know my peers and would match the close-knit community I was used to.
“The impact of a passionate, knowledgeable, and understanding lecturer is invaluable. Throughout my time I had many brilliant lecturers and tutors, especially Dr Robyn Saunders and Theresa Shellshear. These two wonderful academics always went above and beyond, so obviously dedicated and committed to their role of educating and supporting future teachers. I could never thank them enough for the impact they had on me, which will continue to guide me as an educator into the future.”
All ACU students are required to complete community engagement as a way of advancing the mission to service the common good and enhance the dignity and wellbeing of communities who experience disadvantage or marginalisation.
“Community engagement introduced me to SHINE for Kids, a phenomenal organisation supporting children with a family member in the criminal justice system,” Anabel said.
“It operates in my hometown of Goulburn, and yet I had never heard of it. I completed 70 hours of volunteer work experience supporting their school, prison, and community-based programs. I loved it and after I graduated, I accepted a paid role as a child and family worker and stayed for almost three and a half years.”
This role broadened Anabel’s understanding of adverse childhood experiences and the impact they have on children, families, and the wider community.
“It largely shaped who I am as an educator, teacher, and individual,” Anabel said.
“I am proud to know that I have always worked hard, and now have an invaluable range of skills and experience. Many people are surprised to hear I have a Bachelor of Education (Primary), but do not work as a teacher. I knew that settling for a job that my heart wasn’t truly in, would be a disservice to myself and everyone around me.
“I am now a program officer for the Illawarra Transition to School Program which aims to ensure smooth transitions for children into kindergarten.
“We provide families with information, advice, and referrals. This supports them to nurture the development and wellbeing of their children. My role involves a lot of stakeholder engagement, to ensure that families are holistically supported and children get the best start to school possible.”
Making work matter
It’s a role that energises and interests Anabel and one she is clearly passionate about.
“I love getting to work with a multidisciplinary team of equally passionate individuals across the education, health, and welfare sectors. There is a palpable sense of community,” she said.
“A real highlight is connecting with parents and carers one-on-one to really unpack their experiences, questions, and concerns. I am grateful to be able to help them feel confident in their decisions to send their child or children to school.
“The transition to school is one of the biggest changes anyone will ever experience and is often a clear indicator for future life outcomes. Knowing that I get to play a small role in making this incredibly significant transitional period that little bit less daunting for parents is my driving force.”
Her role also allows her to pursue that long-held dream of connecting to kids.
“I love working with children. The way they are so beautifully curious about the world around them, how they transfer knowledge between contexts to make sense of it, and how they interact with their environments,” Anabel said.
“Children are the future. It’s an honour to work with them and support them as they develop and discover who they are. For me, the greatest thing I could ever achieve is being that person who helped nurture their development and encouraged their curiosity and individuality.”
And her advice for current education students?
“Get involved. With your community, with your sector, with your passions,” she said.
“Volunteer with the groups actively working to support the vulnerable groups in your community. Learn from their methods and achievements. Watch how they engage with their clients and how they respond to need. Engage in professional learning and development opportunities. We should all strive to be life-long learners. Be the example.
“The greatest mistake you could ever make would be to believe you never had more to learn.”
Find out where a teaching degree at ACU can take you.