Trainee teachers take up challenge

Cadet teachers (L-R) Jacob Wootton, Emma Williams and Josh Prichard have embraced the trainee teacher model of St Thomas Aquinas Teaching Schools.

It was an exceptional sixth grade teacher who first inspired Josh Prichard to pursue a career in Catholic Schools. Thanks to the St Thomas Aquinas Teaching Schools, the tertiary student is back in his former classroom at St Aloysius, working alongside that very same teacher as a cadet teacher working towards his degree.

“Susan Heyward is one of the main reasons I wanted to teach,” Mr Prichard, 25, said.

“Having the opportunity to work with her, at the same time as learning teaching theory, reminds me every day why I have made this decision. Those core values of compassion and integrity resonate with me. Being able to put my faith into action in a school and make a difference while I am learning is incredibly exciting.”

Mr Prichard is one of five inaugural students studying to be teachers in Catholic schools through the joint initiative between Catholic Education Tasmania and Alphacrucis College.

St Thomas Aquinas Teaching Schools director Kathy Gaskin said the program, which is in its first year, is an exciting concept that flips the conventional model of teacher training in the diocese to offer both support and formation in school experience.

Cadet teachers spend at least a day a week working in a Catholic school.

“We are educating teachers in a tertiary setting which is Christ-centred and student-focused,” she said.

“Learning their craft with the support of a mentor teacher, cadets are immersed in the classroom from the early stage of their training.” 

Of the five students, two are working towards their Master of Teaching degree and three toward their Bachelor of Education degree.

The schools they are placed at include: Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Launceston, St James Catholic College in Cygnet, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School in Lenah Valley, St Therese’s Catholic School in Moonah and St Aloysius Catholic College in Huntingfield.

“Cadets are treated as trainee teachers from the start of their time in schools, and the mentors and schools are on board and keen to help grow fantastic future teachers,” Mrs Gaskin said.

“The cadets themselves are offered a comprehensive education in the faith and the accredited tertiary degrees. I believe they will bring great depth, knowledge and care to their future teaching.”

Ms Gaskin said she was overwhelmed by the cadets’ enthusiasm and involvement in their faith through parish and social works.

“We have a delightful bunch of students who bring so much life and humour to the program. They are enthusiastic and offer fantastic support to each other,” she said.  

“Discussing educational ideas and pedagogical approaches remains fresh and inspiring. This group of cadets are delighted to be ‘breaking the ice’ for future trainees.”

Cadet teacher Emma Williams, 19, is working at St Therese’s Catholic School in Moonah and said the program was a “perfect pathway” to achieve her goal of teaching her own class in a Catholic primary school.

“I am gaining invaluable experience in the classroom every week. I feel like this course gives me a real advantage. At the end of the day, you can study as much as possible, but when you are in the classroom that is when you learn the most.”

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