The three graduates in the Charles Sturt School of Education in Bathurst have dealt with pregnancies and the birth of children, personal illness, and the death of a partner while studying to attain their degrees.
While currently on maternity leave, Bathurst resident Ms Ella O’Dell (pictured left with her family) is a permanent support education teacher at Eglinton Public School and graduated with a Master of Inclusive Education.
“I was a NSW Department of Education scholarship recipient, and I worked full-time while studying through the pandemic in a forever changing environment and I gave birth to my first child just before I handed in my final assignment for the degree,” Ella said.
“I was completing my last assignment when I went into hospital, and the support that was provided by Charles Sturt University allowed me to hand in my assignment and complete my studies, without increasing the time I spent completing the degree.
“When I finished my final assignment, my little boy was only a few weeks old, and now he will be one in two weeks after I graduate.”
This is Ella’s second degree at Charles Sturt, her first being Bachelor of Education (K-12).
“I chose Charles Sturt University to complete my master’s degree as I had had such a positive and supportive experience during my first degree,” Ella said.
“I found that while completing my master’s online, academic staff were able to create an online community for us to share ideas and talk with each other over Zoom.
“This community helped when things were turned on their head due to COVID-19, and they also shared my news of becoming a mum, so it didn’t feel like we were separated by hundreds of kilometres.”
Ella said the knowledge and skills that the lecturers passed on showed their passion for and experiences in inclusive education and support for students with additional needs.
As she returns to work, Ella hopes to continue to provide inclusive, supportive, differentiated learning experiences that engage all her students.
“With my new expertise, I also hope to provide support to colleagues by sharing my knowledge of inclusive education,” she said.
“In the future, I hope to help teacher education students within the workplace, through practicums and placements, and maybe even become a sessional lecturer if the opportunity arises.”
Mrs Alison Scrimshaw (pictured left with her daughter Skye) from Bathurst graduated with a Bachelor of Education (Birth to Five Years) but is currently not working in the industry due to personal medical reasons.
Alison said her career goal is to become a primary teacher, as it was the first career she remembers wanting as a child and she has always been passionate about teaching.
“In 2010, I finished school as a Year 10 student after being told by my year coordinator that I was not intelligent enough to ever have a good career, but I was lucky enough to pick up a traineeship in an Out of School Hours Service shortly after leaving school,” she said.
“Once I finished my traineeship I moved to Bathurst, continuing my study through TAFE with a Diploma of Children’s Services while working full-time.”
Alison’s TAFE teacher encouraged her to apply to study at university as she had done so well in her diploma.
“A chance to go to university was something I never thought was possible, so it felt like an opportunity of a lifetime and I am so grateful to Charles Sturt University for providing me with that opportunity,” she said.
“A unique aspect for me during my university experience was becoming a mother halfway through, and then finding the motivation and time to go back and finish my studies.
“With its many modes of support and guidance throughout my journey, Charles Sturt University gave me an opportunity to not only further my career but also gave me confidence in my abilities.
“Now, I have nine years’ experience in an industry I am very passionate about, a completed university degree, and I am about to start my second degree, a Bachelor of Teaching (Primary).”
Alison said she may have taken the long road, but it proves that anything is possible with perseverance and passion.
“I started this journey for myself, and I finished it knowing that one day my daughter would hear my story and believe that possibilities are endless,” she said.
Bathurst resident Ms Yolanda Lefevre completed her Master of Teaching (Primary), has been successful in the fast-stream leadership program, and is teaching in Orange.
“Teaching has been a dream of mine since I was in kindergarten so to finally achieve this milestone is breathtaking for me,” Yolanda said.
“I am really proud of what I have overcome to get to this point, as the loss of my partner due to mental health at the beginning of my degree has shaped a new direction for me within the education system.
“I taught full-time during the second year of COVID-19 while also completing a full-time study load, which has been very hard but rewarding at the same time.”
Yolanda said there is so much yet to uncover about how mental health and wellbeing is approached within primary schools and she is keen to learn how she can be involved to reduce the ever-increasing concern of mental health in school-age people, especially in rural areas.
“I can see myself beginning study that looks into wellbeing and resilience for students and staff, which is where my new direction will inevitably take me,” she said.
“I hope to be able to provide support to students as a teacher and to staff members as a colleague through informed studies that will build my knowledge further in the field.”
Find more information on the Charles Sturt University graduations webpage.