In response to an urgent call out for teacher support from schools, during Term 2, 2022, more than 40 Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong (CEDoW) Education and Professional Officers volunteered their time in both teaching and leadership support roles across the diocese.
To help alleviate the growing pressure on schools and minimise disruption to students' learning, each qualified CEO staff member committed to five days of support in schools, collectively assisting with hundreds of hours of face-to-face learning across our schools.
The pandemic continues to present major challenges for all of our schools. For schools in rural areas, such as Milton and Nowra, their remote locations can make finding a teacher for every classroom even more difficult.
Chris Paton, Principal of St Michael’s Catholic Primary School, Nowra, said employing teachers in a full-time or part-time capacity has been a constant struggle this year, due to sickness, pandemic challenges, and a lack of teachers willing to drive to Nowra.
“Avoiding the splitting of classes is a daily challenge,” said Mr Paton. “The school has been required to merge some classes for the remainder of the 2022 school year, as well as place school leadership teaching staff in classes to meet the teacher shortage.”
As Catholic educators, we’re taught to be of service to others, so when the call for teacher support in Nowra went out, Education Officer Ben Woods embraced the chance to help.
Mr Woods hasn’t worked as a classroom teacher for six years, and said the opportunity provided him with a refreshed insight into school life and a reminder of the pressures classroom teachers face on a daily basis.
“It was great to be back in the classroom and be able to support the school in this way,” he said. “Although the teachers were tired, they were still smiling and striving to provide the best possible education for their students.
“Whilst in the school I was able to gather a sense of the use of technology, which directly links to my work. This has developed into further follow-up sessions with teachers and students where we have explored ways that technology can be used to enhance learning.”
While being back in the classroom may have provided Mr Woods and his CEO colleagues a chance to reconnect with their love of teaching, Mr Paton said their presence and support provided a beacon of hope for communities stretched to their limits.
“We’re so grateful to the CEO staff who assisted by teaching in our school when available,” said Mr Paton. “Some have travelled from the far reaches of the diocese, including Campbelltown and the northern suburbs of Wollongong.
“The presence of these teachers has assisted the wellbeing of all members of the school community and I would like to thank them for their enthusiasm to engage with our students and staff” - Chris Paton, Principal St Michael's, Nowra
Peter Hill, Director of Schools was greatly encouraged by the level of commitment and support provided by the Education and Professional Officers.
“I’m extremely grateful for the staff that volunteered their time to ensure that students’ face-to-face learning continued,” he said. “I’m sure that during the time spent in the classrooms and offices of our schools, CEO staff gained as much from the experience as they gave.
“The recent firsthand insight into the experiences of our classroom teachers and school support staff will be invaluable to ongoing planning and the development of the ongoing support we provide to schools.”