Teacher recruits respond to calling

Diana Nguyen, Emilia Megroz and Liam Heurtau are graduates drawn to teaching by the IITE program. 292293_01 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A new crop of student teachers are bringing zest and unique skills to Lyndale Secondary College.

The four paid “paraprofessionals” have joined the Lyndale staff ranks while studying Masters-degrees in teaching at Deakin University.

Between them, they hold an array of qualifications such as radiation science, psychology and journalism.

It’s part of the State Government’s Innovative Initial Teacher Education (IITE) program, which aims to boost teacher numbers in outer-metro schools and priority subjects such as science and maths.

It offers student incentives like an accelerated 18-month teaching qualification, a teacher mentor at the school, lower course fees and a “teacher’s wage” while they study.

Lyndale Secondary principal Pam Robinson says the trainee teachers “re-energise” the school. It has also been rewarding to see existing staff mentor the recruits.

“They’re energetic, they’re enthusiastic, they want to work with kids and they’re committed to make a difference.

“The skill-sets they bring and the way they engage with the kids is phenomenal.”

Former arts-journalism student Emilia Megroz, of Mulgrave, is teaching English, geography and media classes at Lyndale.

The IITE program means she is “hitting the ground running” as a teacher.

“We’re respected as teachers and we’re paid a teacher’s wage whilst studying, which is really gratifying.”

Ms Megroz opted for teaching as a more secure, long-term career. But she can still bring her journalism skills like interviewing, communication and research to the classroom.

Behavioural management is one of the key skills that teachers can only refine on the job, she says.

“It’s not something you can learn from a textbook.”

Like any trainee teachers, the initial steps feel like being “thrown in the deep end a bit” – despite the mentorship and support of seasoned colleagues.

“There is that overwhelming nature of it, but when we’re fully-fledged teachers it’s not going to be a shock.

“It’s a challenging industry and each day we face obstacles we can overcome. It can be really exhausting as well.”

Liam Heurtau, of Drouin, was looking for a career change from radiation therapy when drawn to the IITE teaching program.

He’s teaching five science classes as well as the Select Entry Accelerated Learning (SEAL) program at Lyndale Secondary.

Of course, there’s a widely-reported shortage of trained STEM teachers.

With his science background, Mr Heurtau is keen to activate students with “applied learning”.

Which means lots of practical experiments, such as the ‘flame test’, in which burning chlorides and fluorides elicit an array of colours.

Psychology and criminology graduate Diana Nguyen, of Doveton, has diverted into teaching science, maths and VCAL leadership.

The role makes rich use of her psychological expertise, with her ambition to work with teenagers.

While exhausting, the job has great rewards such as helping a disengaged student realise they’re “smart” and can do the work.

“I try to connect with them and understand why they’re disengaged.

“Even when I was that age, I had other priorities like just caring about boys, hair, how we looked, sport, Netflix and TikTok.

“I feel like I can relate to them at their level.”