24 Nov 2022
Katie Charlton comes from a family of teachers – and the University of the Sunshine Coast graduate has a poignant message for other educators-in-waiting.
“My message of encouragement for future teachers is to never fall out of love with learning,” Katie says.
“Teachers need to place a value of importance on lifelong learning.
“As an extension of that, it’s okay to make mistakes.
“I’ve seen teachers who have been in the field for more than 20 years make mistakes and they accept that positively by saying ‘It’s okay because I’m still learning too’.”
A mid-2021 graduate of a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) at UniSC, Katie spent the first six months of her teaching career at North Rockhampton State High, prior to finding a permanent role at Ipswich Grammar.
She confesses she doesn’t have far to look for role models, with her mother, her aunt and uncle all involved in the teaching profession.
A significant part of Katie’s journey has been discovering more about herself, and finding her own individual tenets upon which to base her teaching philosophy.
“The basis of my teaching is compassion and care. I’ve built everything around that,” Katie says.
“I’ve learnt to value relationships and recognise that students don’t necessarily want to learn unless they feel valued and respected.
“Gone are the days where pupils are meant to be seen and not heard. They have agency within the classroom and, when you’re dealing with 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds, you should be treating them as adults.
“At the end of the day, people don’t always remember what you teach them, but they remember the way you make them feel.”
Indeed, Katie has a specific example of a mentor who changed her learning trajectory.
Describing herself as someone who “struggled with maths and science”, Katie found a niche in English, drama and music class.
She can remember feeling a little lost for direction, but with some words of encouragement she eventually settled on what has now become her career path.
“To be truthful, I didn’t really enjoy school, but then I was fortunate to have the same English teacher for Grades 10, 11 and 12, and she made a definite impact on me,” Katie says.
“She always had time for me if I needed it.
“She filled me with confidence about my abilities and planted a seed about me becoming a teacher.
“At that point I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I followed her advice and put it down as a preference for university, and in time it has become my passion.”
Now a specialist English and Humanities teacher, Katie said she derived greatest value from her UniSC education via the numerous practical placements undertaken as part of her studies.
So formative were those moments, that Katie still maintains contact with several of the teachers that guided her through her career baptism.
“If I ever need support, I’ll still message them for advice,” Katie says.
“Most teachers say you’ll feel like a fish out of water for your first couple of years, but that sensation does go away and you become more assured and accustomed to leading students through their education.
“Aside from my practical placements, another thing I did which really helped me was working as a teacher’s aide in my last two years of university.
“I also undertook extra volunteer work as a school basketball coach. Those types of things taught me about building relationships with students and seeing how schools were run from another perspective.
“Had I not done those things, maybe I wouldn’t have been as prepared, or known what was expected of me.”