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Written By

Tianna Killoran

College

College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

21 October 2021

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Shining a light on teachers

On 29 October, Queensland celebrates World Teachers’ Day to thank teachers for their important work and the positive impact they make in students’ lives. Pre-service teachers like JCU Student Martika Carroll are keen to join the next generation of teachers. Martika shares the important difference that teachers can make in students’ lives and encourages aspiring Indigenous teachers.

Growing up in Innisfail, Far North Queensland surrounded by inspiring teachers and educators, Martika knew the difference that teachers could make in students’ lives and wanted to do the same. She is now studying the final semester of her Bachelor of Education (Secondary) at JCU.

“My mum has worked as a teacher aide at the one of the primary schools that myself and my brother and sister went to in Innisfail. She’s been there nearly 20 years and is still there today as the Community Liaison Officer. So, I think it’s played a big part seeing the way my mum has been able to interact with and support students, especially Indigenous students,” Martika says.

Other teachers throughout Martika’s schooling also influenced her decision to study education. “I was definitely influenced by a Marine Studies teacher that I had in high school. She was also my netball coach and it was good to connect with her in the classroom and then on the netball court as well,” Martika says.

Now also a netball coach herself, Martika says these formative experiences have stayed with her. “That connection with my teachers was really important, and creating connection is a big thing for me as a teacher, as well. Building that rapport with students definitely pays off in your classroom,” she says.

“Having a quality education experience that feels inclusive is really important for students,” Martika says. “One of my main goals is that I really want to improve the educational environments for students at school, particularly for Indigenous students, to make them feel a lot more comfortable and to enjoy being in my classroom,” Martika says.

Martika Carroll after giving the Student Address speech at the fifth annual Indigenous Student Awards ceremony.

Supplied by Martika Carroll.

Teaching in the Tropics

In 2018, Martika was awarded the Pearl Duncan Teaching Scholarship. The scholarship is named in honour of Dr Pearl Duncan, an Aboriginal teacher who dedicated her life to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in education.

“My tribal groups are Bigambul and Djaku-nde, both in the south-west Queensland region, so studying Education and inspiring other Indigenous students to become teachers is really important to me,” Martika says.

“The money from the scholarship was really helpful with my studies and it also guarantees you a permanent teaching position when you graduate,” Martika says. “It helped me with textbooks and when I needed to go out of town for placement. One of the first things I did when I received the first payment was go out and buy myself a new laptop for my studies, which was really helpful.”

Now in the final semester of her degree, Martika says it has been great to experience teaching placement in many different schools throughout North Queensland.

“I went to Gilroy Santa Maria College in Ingham for my third-year placement, and then to Thuringowa State High School for my fourth year, which involved two sets of five-week placements. Going from a smaller school in Ingham to a much larger school in Townsville was quite different,” she says.

“It was both challenging and rewarding. Being an Aboriginal person myself, I definitely wanted to be able to work with Indigenous kids. I was able to put a lot of the skills from my degree into practice and my time at Thuringowa State High School turned out to be the best placement I’ve ever done,” she says.

In choosing Health and Physical Education (HPE) and Geography as her teaching areas, Martika says she enjoys being outside and engaging students in hands-on learning experiences. “I’ve always loved sport and have done quite well at it. I just wanted to share that knowledge, experience and passion for different sports with students all through high school.”

“I think that’s why I chose secondary. I feel I’m better able to connect with the students and I want to be part of the process of just helping students transition out of high school and prepare them for the world,” Martika says.

Inspiring the future

Martika says she wants to see even more Indigenous teachers in schools and wants to encourage more students to study Education.

Martika was invited to speak at the Indigenous Education and Research Centre’s (IERC) Winter School in July, alongside Senior Lecturer in Education Dr Peta Salter. The opportunity allowed her to share her experience with Indigenous students aspiring to become teachers.

“My advice was that if you want to come to university, there’s always someone who’s going to be there to support you. Teaching is such a great area to get into and we need more Indigenous teachers. Teaching is a good career path and I just wanted to try and share that,” Martika says.

The IERC’s Winter School is a program for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Year 10, 11 and 12 that gives the opportunity to experience university life during the school holidays.

“At the IERC, there’s a number of resources and support services that can help you through your degree. You’re going to always be supported, especially by the Indigenous Support Advisors there. They’ll check up on you and have a yarn with you if you need any help, and you are always welcome at the centre.”

Bachelor of Education (Secondary) Student Martika Carroll

In terms of her plans for the future, Martika says she may stay in Townsville for a while but hopes to teach throughout Queensland. “I really would love to gain some experience teaching in different schools around Townsville for a few years, but then definitely would love to go somewhere else,” she says. “It might be up north to teach in an Indigenous community up in Cape York, or maybe head down to the south-west region where all my family are from. I’m really keen to get in the classroom and start teaching.”

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Experience teaching in the Tropics and make a difference in students' lives.