Charles Sturt graduate Mrs Marie Cassar overcame many obstacles, including home-schooling her children in a pandemic while caring for a premature newborn and working part-time, to obtain her master’s degree. She will join hundreds of graduates at rescheduled ceremonies in Bathurst this week.
While Mrs Marie Cassar was raising her own children, she was working toward improving the education opportunities for children in her community.
Marie was a mother of four children under eight years old when she commenced her Master of Teaching (Secondary) with Charles Sturt University.
She will join more than 400 graduates at Charles Sturt in Bathurst this week as they attend one of the five ceremonies that were rescheduled from last year due to COVID-19.
Marie completed her undergraduate degree in Mechatronic Engineering and Computer Science and previously worked as an engineer in industrial automation.
After her children were born, and she battled with postnatal depression, Marie decided on a career change.
She commenced her master’s online in 2018 while raising her four children and working three days a week as a STEM coordinator at MLC School Burwood in Sydney’s inner west.
At the end of her first year, her fifth child was born prematurely. She completed the end of session two while on bed rest and with a baby in the NICU.
And then came COVID-19. Marie was in her third year in 2020 when she became part of the eLearning team at the MLC School.
She was involved in training teachers to move online and setting up eLearning platforms, while assisting three of her own children who were learning from home and completing her own studies.
The longer lockdown was implemented in 2021, forcing Marie to complete the first half of her placement online. She was awarded the Dean’s Award that session, an accomplishment she is very proud of.
“A lot of that credit is due to the support of the Charles Sturt University lecturers and other students,” she said.
“Completing a degree online seems like it would be an isolating experience, however, with the eLearning platforms at Charles Sturt, including subject forums, Zoom lectures and tutorials, I felt very supported.
“With the switch to Zoom, I also got to know some of the other students in the course and we were able to help each other with suggestions and by sharing our experiences.”
Marie noticed the lack of diversity while working in the industrial automation industry, especially the inflexibility of work patterns when she started her family. It was what inspired her career change.
“The lack of diversity in STEM fields can not only lead to bias, but it can also lead to the perpetuation of working cultures that aren’t supportive of women looking to work or study in the field,” she said.
Marie chose teaching because she is passionate about inspiring and encouraging girls to consider STEM as a viable career option. She also chose the field because of the work/life balance it provides.
“I find teaching to be very rewarding, particularly when I see students developing new skills, problem solving, building their confidence in their own abilities and engaging with STEM and technologies,” she said.
Marie was excited to attend her graduation ceremony on Monday 2 May in Bathurst.
“To get to attend the ceremony for me is a nice symbolic way to acknowledge the hard work that has gone into completing my master’s,” she said.
“To be able to show my children the ceremony is important for me so that I can show them the sacrifices and hard work have resulted in an achievement, which is worth celebrating.”
Marie said her career change involved challenges and sacrifices, but she encourages others who are considering a change to take the leap.
“There can be stressful times but with determination and the right support, it is certainly possible,” she said.
“If I can manage it with five young children, workings three days a week and a pandemic thrown in for good measure, it is certainly possible.”
Marie continues to work as the STEM coordinator at MLC School Burwood.