Loddon Mallee teachers talk ongoing contracts and mentoring at work

Mark Kearney – Bendigo Advertiser

Amy Van Heumen admits her first 18 months of teaching has not always been easy.

“I’ve definitely had a few late nights, to midnight, and struggled from time to time,” the Eaglehawk Secondary college mathematics and science teacher said.

But Ms Van Heumen, who graduated from La Trobe University in 2014, described her career so far as “very, very rewarding”, something she partly attributed to the support new teachers received in her central Victorian school.

The beginning teacher said she had been mentored by more experienced staff members who, thanks to the open plan of Eaglehawk’s classrooms, were never far away if help was needed.

She was also able to draw on the expertise of her mother, who was also a teacher, she said.

La Trobe education department head Joanna Barbousas said mentoring for graduate teachers was an important part of their transition into the workplace.

It is also likely to become more common after a 2014 ministerial advisory group on teacher education recommended universities continue to offer their graduates mentoring for the first three years of their teaching degree.

Mentors could help newly minted educators navigate the difficulties of 21st century schooling indentified by Dr Barbousas, including the need to develop digital literacy a sense of professional wisdom.

“It (wisdom) builds through time if you’re in the profession for longer,” she said.

Additional pressure can be put onto new teachers who take up a leadership position soon after starting their career, Dr Barbousas said.

For now, Ms Van Heumen’s focus is on her classroom practice, something she said was aided by having won an ongoing position at the Eaglehawk school straight out of university.

“I’m very, very lucky having that security and it definitely allows me to use my planning time effectively and be a better teacher,” she said.

She said many of the students in her year level at university were less fortunate and had already needed to reapply for their contracted positions.