Student teacher embraces on job learning

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Student teacher embraces on job learning

UniSA student Kelsie Wilkinson has been working at Millicent High School since the beginning of the 2023 school year to help address teacher shortages.

As the state continues calls for more teachers Ms Wilkinson is part of a growing number of teaching students filling the demands.

However, the teacher shortage is not isolated to South Australia , with it being felt across the country.

Born and bred in Millicent, Ms Wilkinson was invited to take up a teaching contract at the same school where she completed her secondary education.

She is currently in her fourth, and final, year studying a Bachelor of Education (Secondary Design and Technology).

Aware one of his former students was pursuing a career in teaching woodwork, Millicent High School principal Todd “Watto” Watson contacted Ms Wilkinson offering her a teaching position.

She accepted the offer and returned to her hometown to take on the position of Design and Technologies teacher.

“I thought he was calling me up to organise a placement for the next year already and then wanted me for (teaching) the following year,” Ms Wilkinson said.

Design and Technology teachers support students to develop their design and production knowledge and skills in a range of areas such as wood, metal, CADD/CAM, electronics, 3D printing and laser cutting.

In her final year at Millicent High School in 2018 Ms Wilkinson achieved an ATAR score of 86.7 and was awarded the W.S. DeGaris Cup at the school’s end of year presentation.

After taking a gap year in 2019 Ms Wilkinson moved to Adelaide to study at the University of South Australia.

“The school culture here is one of the reasons I wanted to come back,” Ms Wilkinson said.

“I know everyone here and if you need something they are happy to help.

“Obviously it’s easier for me here because I already knew people.

“I said yes straight away.

“I said I’m going to do everything possible to get the uni to let me come home.

“I was living in Adelaide and was meant to do it (study) on campus, but I needed to find a way for them to get them to let me to do my study online and finish off uni while down here.

“I have learnt so much this year.

“You do not get the same experience doing seven-week placement than what you do teaching in a school.

“There’s reporting, writing, unit plans that suit the kids you’re working with.”

This year Ms Wilkinson has been teaching students in year levels from 7 to 11, some of which were her peers prior to her completing Year 12.

In 2018 Ms Wilkinson was in her final year of secondary education,


Fast track to 2023 Ms Wilkinson is now teaching that Year 7 cohort who are now in their final year of secondary schooling.

“I was still expected to complete my last university placement which I could do at Millicent High,” Ms Wilkinson said.

“I believe the Department collaborates with the universities to ensure that students will be able to manage working and studying.

“During this time additional supervision was provided to continue my development.

“The majority of people I know that are SAT (Special Authority to Teach) teachers have been offered jobs after a placement.

“So, I guess they showed they were ready and competent to take on the position.”

When more experienced staff are stretched, Ms Wilkinson said she is continually well supported by the school’s own experienced teaching staff, in particular Scott “Hamo” Hamilton and Tom “Sutters” Sutterby.

Mr Hamiliton was her former teacher who she now works alongside.

“Hamo was my Year 9 woodwork teacher. He introduced me to the wood lathe and I loved it,” she said.

While she has been teaching independently from the start of the year, Ms Wilkinson said she felt confident in her ability and when needed could approach supporting staff when needing assistance.

“I have been teaching independently from week 1 of term 1. I have always taken my classes independently, however if I needed extra support Hamo or Sutters were around the place,” she said.

“Everyone has been more than willing to assist whether it be answering questions or extra observations.”

In March the State Government announced rolling out $2m in teaching scholarships to get more ‘underrepresented groups’ into the teaching profession.

Such groups include women teaching STEM and more male primary school teachers.

Ms Wilkinson is one female who has a passion for woodwork, which she said falls under the ‘underrepresented’ group.

“Maybe in the past females have been ‘underrepresented’ in the areas but I would say that more females are becoming Design and Technologies teachers nowadays,” she said.

For Ms Wilkinson being a student teacher has been beneficial in being able to apply the university course work into teaching practical classes.

She has also been an integral part of assisting with transferring the woodwork classroom to the former TAFE SA campus neighbouring the school to further enhance the educational outcomes of her students.

Known as the Technology Industry Pathways (TIP) building, the site is a hub also used for metalwork, 3D printing and design.

“I would say we have by far the biggest facility. What we have an industrial size facility, to me is by far one of the best out of the Limestone Coast schools,” Ms Wilkinson said.

Alongside Mr Hamilton and Mr Suttersby, Ms Wilkinson was able to take the school’s Year 9 and 10 Design and Technology students to use their skills at a local business.

They were offered the opportunity to work with an international installation crew and the Kaboom Family Entertainment employees to remove the timber from the bowling lanes.

The material removed will be repurposed and used for student projects within Design and Technology lessons.

“We would like to thank Kaboom Family Entertainment for offering our students this opportunity, it is greatly appreciated,” Ms Wilkinson said.

Meanwhile, the 23-year-old admits she has been mistaken for being a high school student on a number of occasions.

“Kids look older than me. I have been asked by a relief teacher what my research project question was. I have not been questioned what I’m doing in the staffroom yet,” she said.

With the end of 2023 fast approaching, so too does Ms Wilkinson’s one year teaching contract, which means she is starting to think about where to next in her career.

“I have accepted a two-year contract which starts next year,” she said.

“At the moment I still have so much to learn, and I believe that Hamo and Sutters along with other leaders and staff at Millicent 

“High School will provide me with the best opportunity to develop 
as a teacher.

“At the moment I am happy to be home with family and friends, but who knows what will happen in the future.”

According to Ms Wilkinson, on-the-job training is the most beneficial way to learn.

“I have always said teaching should be like an apprenticeship. Carpentry apprentices do not sit in a classroom,” she said.

“The theories behind it are useful, but let me apply that knowledge in a classroom longer than a seven-week placement.

“I’m definitely lucky in the fact I’m a year ahead of everyone else when they graduate.

“I will have already completed my first year of teaching in a school.”

She said the early introduction to teaching has had a positive influence on her personally.

“Being able to start early has had such a positive influence on my confidence and ability to create positive learning environments for students.”


Meanwhile, Mr Watson said schools were very short staffed or had little options for different roles.

“Ideally you do not seek out student teachers, but in the current climate there is not a lot of options for many curriculum areas within the schools, especially in the country,” he said.

“Experienced educators are very much a first preference, but these are harder to come by particularly within the country areas.

“Distance between school does make it harder for staff to switch sites and so you are relying on people moving to the area.”

Mr Watson said having previously taught Ms Wilkinson he was aware of her focus and talents towards teaching.

“In asking if Ms Wilkinson was interested, I did have to exhaust all other options and there were no other teaching options, which was the case,” he said.

According to Mr Watson, it was Ms Wilkinson’s eagerness to be a successful teacher that made her right for the role.

“Her eagerness to be a successful teacher and someone who was looking to move home and ideally wants to stay in the area,” he said.

“We hoped by working with Ms Wilkinson and supporting her she would want to continue with us, and if everything went well we would have a great teacher for a long time to come.

“We already had a positive rapport and having been her teacher she also understands my teaching pedagogies and philosophies so was willing to be a part of our school culture and direction forward.

“This meant she already knew our school context making her connection with staff and students that much easier.”

Extra resourcing to accommodate student teachers was one con Mr Watson pointed out.

However, he said the cons do lead to positives.

“It does take a lot of additional resourcing and the willingness of the site to support them if you are to have successful outcomes,” he said.

“Ultimately this does add a cost to the site which it must cover and prioritise.

However, this cost for us, has enabled success and provided us with a teacher for the future which makes it well worth our while.

“The support we have provided Ms Wilkinson in class and outside has been with two very experienced and excellent operators in the technology space.

“Tom and Scott have been able to mentor her, offer advice, step in to support planning and provide any assistance she was after.

They debriefed with her daily, checking in on progress.

“We had three other leaders from other curriculum areas working with her also, making sure we had the best educators and leaders around to act as role models and to provide the support she needed.

“As a site, we also made sure we released her from her lessons or gave days off as she needed them to ensure she completed her studies.

Completing university was still ours and her main priority.

“We needed to ensure the experience was positive so that she would want to continue in the profession and so she could successfully juggle the complexity of teaching and studying at the same time.”

According to Mr Watson, Ms Wilkinson’s passion to be a great teacher is obvious.

“She has been super eager to learn, reflect and grow. Her want to be successful has enabled this whole process to be very enjoyable and positive for us all,” he said.

“She was willing to put in extra time and work hard to achieve her outcomes.

“Bringing in new people is always exciting as they can bring in new ideas and practices, they can bring an insight that can challenge the status quo and ensure a school, curriculum area, unit planning directions do not become stale.

“But the flip side is it does take time to learn the uniqueness of each site and community and how you make yourself fit to have positive outcomes.

“Ideally having options to make decisions on which staff to employ enables sites to consider everything.

“I believe there are positives from experienced teachers new to a site, returning teachers, graduates or returning students.”

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