Senior Lecturer, Dr Steve Murphy, began his career teaching in primary and secondary schools in central and northeast Victoria. And he loved it.
“Each school was embedded in the community and the connections were strong,” he recalls. “We had amazing local resources, and we tapped into those opportunities to enrich learning. At one school, we picked grapes at a local vineyard, and studied wine-making. At another, we worked with our community to plan and construct a bike track on council land.”
Dr Murphy has lived by the premise that educators don’t just teach students. Rather, teach within an ecosystem of classrooms, families, schools, communities, and the broader sector.
“There are challenges associated with distance and resources, but we can’t focus on disadvantage,” he says. “The real challenge is identifying the strengths in rural, regional and diverse communities in order to create new opportunities for students and teachers.”
The School of Education has established two innovative new programs that will prepare teachers to do just that. Both are supported by the Victorian Department of Education and Training and led by expert La Trobe academics including Dr Murphy, Kymberley Barbary, Professor Joanna Barbousas, Dr Anne Southall, Professor Bernadette Walker-Gibbs and Dr Jacolyn Weller.
“The Access Quality Teaching Initiative offers high performing students enhanced teacher preparation opportunities and enriched placement experiences during the final two years of their degree,” explains Murphy. “The program is designed to boost teacher preparation for work in schools that serve diverse communities.”
The School is also partnering with The University of Melbourne to establish the Greater Shepparton Teaching Academy of Professional Practice, an initiative that gives students placement experiences that enhance their skills in inclusive education.
In both programs, students are given the tools to optimise their experience.
“Students receive coaching in inclusive education, and a comprehensive induction to the school where they will complete their placement,” says Murphy. “They also undertake placement as part of a small cohort, which gives them an additional layer of peer support. And, they receive additional mentoring from La Trobe academics and teachers.”
The model, Murphy notes, “helps students to enter schools knowing they can make a valuable contribution to the classroom and the community.”
Both programs are also a win for schools, providing them with a graduate teacher pipeline and professional development opportunities for mentor teachers, and allowing schools to build their leadership capability.
“By training confident, skilled and culturally aware educators, we are helping to create more equity, inclusion and opportunity in our schools.”