St Finbarr's Quilpie welcomes two new teachers: Tessa McDougall and Ellie Charlton.
St Finbarr's Quilpie welcomes two new teachers: Tessa McDougall and Ellie Charlton.

‘Changing of the guard’ at tiny outback school

ST FINBARR'S Quilpie is only a small school: they have 30 students, and seven staff members - including two teachers and longstanding principal Genny McNair.

Like most outback schools, they see teachers come and go, getting their outback experience and moving on in their careers.

But something unprecedented has happened St Finbarr's this year: one hundred per cent of the teaching staff are brand new graduates.

"This is the first time I have had two new teachers start at the same time, I usually have one stay and one go," principal Genny McNair said.

"But this year we welcome Tessa McDougall, who is a graduate teacher taking the Prep-3 class, and Ellie Charlton taking year 3-6.

"The energy graduate teachers bring to the school is just fabulous, I absolutely love it; we always try to have young teachers here, and they generally do stay for a couple of years before moving on - it is part of the dynamic of the school."

In addition to the new teachers, Mrs McNair is welcoming a record cohort of seven Prep students to her school, who will make up nearly a quarter of the student population.

"This is the largest Prep intake we have had in quite a while, and along with the new Preps, a couple of new families are just starting out with us," she said.

"It is sort of like a changing of the guard, between all the new parents, families, students and staff, and I have found it really exciting, actually.

"To have all the new families coming in and bringing all of their special skills, expertise and their own enthusiasm to us, it has built a really strong school community."

Having been in her position for so long, Mrs McNair has become an advocate for graduate teachers, encouraging them to take on rural life, in part because it provides them with a wealth of experience in their vocation.

Following a summit on the shortage of teachers in rural areas, Ms McNair noted that finding the right applicant was more difficult than in previous years, but is ultimately impressed with her new teachers.

"We had struggled a little bit to get teachers, but the two teachers who I now have here have absolutely fallen in love with the place in such a short time," Ms McNair said.

"I think the point I want to get across is that just because we are a small rural school, doesn't mean there isn't any support for teachers.

"I personally work alongside the teachers that I have here now, and am in their classrooms every day, but also the support we get from the Diocese office in Toowoomba is absolutely incredible.

"The biggest challenge for them is getting their head around the curriculum because they are teaching three or four year levels at once, but there is so much support here for the teachers, and it is a great, safe place for them to learn their trade."

Charleville Western Times

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