A keynote address to mental health professionals in British Columbia on the risks facing children whose parents have a mental illness has marked the arrival of new Charles Sturt University (CSU) staff to its teacher education program in Burlington, Ontario.
According to Dr Daryl Maybery, from the University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and education lecturer Dr Andrea Reupert, children have a greater risk of developing behavioural, developmental and emotional problems when their parents have a mental illness.
“We are aiming to break the cycle of mental health disorders, given that children of parents with a mental illness such as depression are more likely to develop depression themselves,” Dr Maybery said.
Dr Reupert’s transfer to Ontario for five months follows the inaugural graduation in June 2006 of more than 100 CSU Ontario students, who were awarded Charles Sturt University’s Bachelor of Primary Education Studies.
Associate Professor Rod Francis, Associate Head of School for CSU in Ontario, says the past year has seen significant growth. “We have a much larger intake, from 115 to this year’s 180 in two cohorts. We have 90 students on campus Monday and Tuesday who go out into their school practicum’s Wednesday and Thursday, while the other 90 students do the opposite. Every second Friday we all come together for professional development.”
Along with the increase in student numbers is more space. Terry Noonan, Manager Burlington Service Centre, is on secondment in Ontario from CSU’s Dubbo Campus in the west of NSW. “We have two more teaching spaces as well as an additional common room and study room for our students.”
Along with Dr Reupert, who is teaching childhood development and classroom management, other staff from Australia include Noella McKenzie an education lecturer specialising in early childhood, language and literary and Tracey Smith specialising in maths education. For the first time the Australian academics have teamed up with Canadian counterparts to form “teaching teams”, according to Professor Francis.
“This has been a great two-way learning experience and I think provides the students with best local practice combined with an international perspective.”
Ms Noonan says the teaching teams “bring breadth and depth into the program. Each team is running their subject as they see fit, so they are setting the environment for a lot of collaboration, which is great, and the students are going to benefit so much from that.”