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Written By

Tianna Killoran

College/

College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

28 October 2021

Related Study Areas

Connecting with students

This World Teachers’ Day on 29 October we celebrate and thank our teachers for the difference they make in students’ lives. Courtney Hawkins, who studied a Bachelor of Education (Primary) at JCU and is now a Year Six teacher at Pimpama State School, shares with us her journey to teaching and supporting students in the classroom.

Straight out of studying a Bachelor of Education (Primary) in 2021, Courtney landed a job teaching a Year Six class at Pimpama State School. “It has been the best kind of challenge,” Courtney says. “I couldn’t wait to become a teacher full-time. I just felt like I could make a real difference in kids’ lives.”

Beginning to teach a class partway through the year was a daunting task, but one that Courtney says she was ready to take on. “The previous teacher was so wonderful and so I was a little nervous taking over from her,” Courtney says.

“But I’ve got so many emails from parents saying how much the kids love being in my classroom and how the transition has been really smooth. They couldn’t be happier, and I couldn’t be happier! So, that has been my favourite part and it’s really nice to get that validation and to know the kids are thriving,” she says.

Courtney says it’s the little wins in the classroom each day that make all the difference. “I’m really passionate about social and emotional wellbeing. It’s really important to me to make sure that the kids who need more support are receiving that support. That they’re not just put in the too-hard basket or are left to the side,” she says.

“I had a really exciting win at the end of last term with a student who is on an Individual Curriculum Plan and who usually reads below their age group. I gave them a Year Six English comprehension test — so within their age group — and I worked with him to verbally answered the comprehension questions,” Courtney says. “He was getting above average marks in the assessment and was remembering such specific details from the text. It’s those little wins that are really great and seeing this student trying so hard and then achieving their goals was wonderful.”

Building these kinds of connections into the classroom to support students is most important to Courtney. “Relationships are the most important thing to me as a teacher. If you can’t connect with the kids, they don’t want to listen to you,” she says. “Education is all about giving options to students for their future.”

Year Six teaching Courtney Hawkins sits at her desk smiling in front of a laptop with classroom posters on the wall behind her.
Year Six teacher Courtney Hawkins smiling and standing in front of a classroom door with a sign saying 'Mrs Hawkins 6D'.
Left: Courtney enjoys the flexibility of teaching and the ability to create connections with students in her classroom. Right: Courtney in front of her classroom door. Supplied by Courtney Hawkins.

Ready to go for RATEP

Courtney studied Primary Education part-time from 2014 to  2021 through RATEP, a community-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teacher education pathway supporting students to complete study in their home communities.

Established in 1990, and previously known as the Remote Area Teacher Education Program (operating only in remote areas), it now reflects a broad community base, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in urban and rural areas in Queensland, as well as remote areas.

Previously working at the Office of the Registrar for Aboriginal Land Rights, Courtney found herself seeking a career path that would work alongside her growing family. “I just had given birth to my daughter and I had to think about what work I could do that would fit in with a family,” Courtney says. “I ended up signing up with the RATEP program to do my Diploma initially. It was good because you can go to the RATEP Centre to study and I could bring my daughter with me.”

After switching to her Education degree, Courtney found the RATEP Centre in Rockhampton a source of ongoing support and encouragement. “Just after I had my daughter, it would be good to go into the Centre and have the Teacher Coordinators and peers who could look over my work. I could have a chat to them and we could bounce ideas around together,” she says.

Later pregnant with her second daughter, Courtney decided to defer her studies for a year. After that, she got straight back into studying and also took up a role as a Community Education Counsellor at Beenleigh State High School.

“Although I didn’t have the RATEP Centre to physically work out of after moving to the Gold Coast, I still had support from Wendy, my JCU RATEP Teacher Coordinator, who was a big help. She would call to check up on me and just have a chat. I also had assistance from different Teacher Coordinators in each location, including Cassy, Marnie and Kittie,” Courtney says. “The support was wonderful.”

Courtney's Year Six classroom

Supplied by Courtney Hawkins

Flexibility for family

Courtney says that one of the biggest perks to studying through the RATEP program and now teaching has been the flexibility to fit in around her family life.

“It’s just the work-life balance of teaching that really works for me,” Courtney says. “Teaching can be relentless where there’s always something to do, but just being able to have time with my kids and enjoy the holidays is really valuable. It works really well with families.”

On the transition from university to teaching, Courtney says it’s been important for her to find a work-life balance.

“I have made a point of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. There’s always going to be something to do, but it’s important to enjoy the work. I just love going to work and teaching students every single day."

JCU Alumni Courtney Hawkins

“I have flexibility and control over my timetable and I can navigate my own work. If the students are a little behind on one activity, I can rearrange our schedule to fit in finishing that rather than stressing over it,” she says.

“For the next few years, I really just want to enjoy teaching and get my head around the role. I have thought about maybe in the future doing a Master of Guidance and Counselling, which would be my next goal.”

Want to learn more about the RATEP program? Find out how to take the first steps in your university journey with the RATEP Pathway.

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