High school teachers who have moved into the classroom from the trades have left a lasting impression on Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic, Dr Annette Green.
During a longitudinal study, Dr Green from the University's School of Education, focused on 12 career-change teachers from trade or industry backgrounds.
They included a former chef, IT support worker, electrician, mechanic, horticulturalist and agricultural worker during their first three years of teaching vocational education and training in high school in NSW.
Dr Green said, "What attracted me to the career change teachers was that they had what I describe as a 'world view' of education.
"I liked their sense of mission and attitudes to young people. Their teaching was strict but respectful and they got to know their students as if they were co-workers
"Their language was clear and plain and they treated school work like a job.
"I found their life experiences gave them a different approach to teaching. They had been out in the world and that was reflected in their teaching.
"They didn't appear to have the same classroom discipline problems as early career teachers who had taken a traditional pathway into the profession.
"They also had a strong focus on literacy and numeracy as they didn't want their students to look bad in the world of employment."
Dr Green's research over a number of years has included interviews, site visits, emails, and phone calls to investigate how these early career teachers had adapted to their new careers, their attitudes and values.
Dr Green also found the career change teachers could hold 'anti intellectual' views and personally many believed that schools were 'too academic'.
"However, some of their students have achieved very well in the Higher School Certificate with one rural student topping the state in Information Studies," she said.
"It is hardly surprising that these teachers saw schools as preparation for the world of work rather than potential university studies as that had been their own pathway.
"In my opinion, it is also healthy to have a mix of staff perspective in a school."
Head of Department of the Technology and Applied Studies at The Riverina Anglican College and CSU graduate Mr Jason Wall said, "Having had 15 years' experience working the manufacturing industry, I brought a strong work ethic to my university studies. I treated it as a job, working eight hours a day at it.
"I found that I am able to draw on my years of industry experience in the classroom and workshop, giving the students examples and real life stories to reinforce what is delivered in the curriculum.
"This can give you instant credibility amongst your students.
"Managing student behaviour can be a challenge at the best of times. However, I have found this easier than I had expected. Whether it was because I entered teaching at an older age, or because I had already learnt to work with, and interact with a variety of people in a variety of situations. Perhaps it is a bit of both.
"Overall, I believe that my years of working in industry have enabled me to have a relatively easy transition to my new teaching career, bringing with me a specialised and unique skill set, big picture perspective and outlook. All of which have equipped me well as a teacher."
Meanwhile, Dr Green has identified the need for further research in this area and is arranging to revisit some of the teachers from her doctoral study over the next year when time and funds permit.
"Hearing different teacher voices in the school system is important, and the effect they have on the school is much more complex to ascertain," she said.
The career change teachers in the study undertook an accelerated teacher education program at CSU.
Dr Green has been secondary and adult education teacher with a special interest in Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) education. Based in the School of Education at CSU in Wagga Wagga, Dr Green is a member of the University's Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education (RIPPLE).
Her research has been published in two international journals.