Private Members’ Business – Teachers

I do thank the member for Reid for this motion and acknowledge the work of the member for Lalor, who just spoke, as well. I also want to acknowledge and thank our teachers, our school support staff and our principals right around Australia for the extraordinary work that they do. As we know, at times the true value of the teacher’s commitment in educating their students and being part of a community can be undervalued. In addition, we see an increasing number of children presenting with a range of special needs in schools, and this is something else that teachers have to deal with.

Teachers have had an extraordinary impact on most of us in our time at school. Most of us can pick out one or two teachers who really made a difference to us. Even for the students who had great difficulties or challenges at school for different reasons in their time, there was possibly one teacher that cut through and made a difference to that individual student.

I remember an amazing teacher by the name of Fiore Rando, at the Harvey High School. Fiore was a teacher of what in those days was called social studies, but he provoked a great interest, in those of us attending his classes, in broader affairs—not just locally but also statewide, nationally and globally. But the measure of the man was not only his great personal values but also the effort he put into each student. I particularly remember one paper of mine in an exam where he’d marked it three times—82 per cent, 83 and then 84. He’d made the effort, which teachers do, to try to make sure the student got the best encouragement they could get to perform at their best.

I see that all of the time in the schools that I visit and in the teachers that are so dedicated to their students. But it’s not only their students. Often it’s the family behind that they are dealing with, and they also have a great involvement in the community. In regional, rural and remote communities in particular, teachers are really such a strong part of our community, and they have a special respect because of what they do for our kids. We really need them and we really value them being in our part of the world because often it isn’t the first place of choice for those seeking a career.

I really want to offer a special thankyou to the teachers who make the effort to understand those who are having great challenges, whether it’s with a particular subject or another issue. Maybe they don’t fit that strictly academic box. They may not be the top students or the best students. They’re the kids who need someone to make an effort to understand them, to know that each one has something that they can do very well and to encourage that to give those students so much more confidence in what it is that they are good at or the skill they have. I also want to acknowledge those who work in our agricultural colleges.

There is an offering in Bunbury called Shedworks. This is a fantastic opportunity for some of the students who have a range of challenges in their schooling, family or lives. Perhaps they don’t fit the traditional model of education. They go to Shedworks where they learn all sorts of new skills that they find they’re very good at. It could be in woodwork or making a range of new products and then marketing them. They are exposed to a whole lot of other people who are creative in different ways. At times they sell these items at the markets and they learn about how to market. So many of them have gone on to other education or training beyond Shedworks.

When I’ve been to their relatively small graduations, I’ve seen the parents and the families so grateful that the teachers in that Shedworks environment have encouraged and inspired these young people, who potentially thought they didn’t have the same opportunities as others, to make the very best of themselves, which they do once they leave Shedworks. Often there’s a job beyond that as well for those students. What an amazing outcome when you’re working with kids who need that extra help to find themselves. I’ve met many teachers who are working countless hours, not just in formal education but in the support and encouragement of young people. They make sure they check in with these kids with the wonderful words—’Are you okay? If you’re not, how can I help you?’ That’s what our teachers do best.