Aspiring Educators Choosing Regional Experiences

19 September 2023

A collaboration between the University of Notre Dame Australia and Catholic schools in the Diocese of Armidale is contributing to an increase in the number of student teachers opting for regional placements over city ones.

This year, students have been stationed in Tamworth to gain exposure to regional living and explore the career opportunities available in rural areas. Tamworth stands as the primary regional hub within the Armidale Catholic Schools system, boasting three Catholic primary schools and one secondary school. Placing students in Tamworth not only fosters a positive learning experience in the classroom but also immerses them in the town's distinctive social, sporting, and cultural facets.

This partnership represents one of UNDA's national initiatives designed to support pre-service teaching students. These students willingly choose regional or rural towns for their pre-service professional experience placements and are paired up to minimise any feelings of isolation they might encounter in a new environment.

National Head of the School of Education Professor David Geelan said schools in rural and regional Dioceses across Australia are currently very keen to employ new graduates to help them staff their classrooms.

“Students from urban settings are more likely to take up some of the fantastic career opportunities in regional schools if they get a taste of the schools and the lifestyle on their professional experience placements. It gives them confidence and a sense of familiarity with the new context,” Professor Geelan said.

“We are delighted that the Diocese of Armidale is supporting students in this way, which enriches graduates’ learning experiences and makes them more likely to teach students in the regions.”

Director of Schools, Chris Smyth met with the students to discuss their experience and was blown away by their passion and willingness to embrace the culture and really throw themselves into a learning environment that is a little out of their comfort zone. He said, “This is a fantastic opportunity to promote initial education in our regional, rural and remote setting. Teacher graduates are well supported with a professional learning community, catholic context and a culture that is collaborative with a real focus on learning and deliberate results orientation towards improving the learning and faith outcomes of young people in our schools.”

Alexandra, who has been placed at St Nicholas in Tamworth, appreciates the partnership. “I’m so lucky that my university has made such a strong connection with Armidale Catholic Schools. I have always wanted to do a placement in rural NSW, and they have made it happen. I would recommend this experience to anyone.”

Student Molly said although the physical distance from Sydney was substantial, the university has been in a constant “Notre Dame have been supporting us along the way, touching base with us and making sure that whilst we aren’t in Sydney, we still receive assistance with our Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment (GTPA)”

These placements align with Notre Dame's five pillars, which encompass educating for the common good, integrating practice and knowledge, promoting universality, and fostering integral human development.

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