Tanya Williams, Advocate and Teacher, shares the inspiring details of her journey in the Education System.
“So many children do not have someone to advocate on their behalf. I believe teachers are a unique part of the puzzle, where we are positioned to advocate for the child. Whether to parents, education or health professionals, teachers are placed in the opportune position to make a change. Life is boring without change.”
Can you tell us about yourself, your family and childhood?
I was fortunate to live in several places growing up. Before grade 3 in Mackay, I had been to 7 primary schools between NSW, VIC, SA and QLD. I have a very large extended family. Boxing day cricket at my Auntie’s beach is possibly one of the most memorable events. We travelled north many times to have holidays in Mackay at the beach.
Tell us about why you became a teacher:
My next-door neighbour (also a teacher) and I always set up classrooms with our siblings and toys. We took turns being the teacher. I had been in management roles before and my husband encouraged me to take the step to study. I love learning and sharing what I learn, so teaching is the ultimate place for me.
Talk us through your experience of being a teacher:
Wow, so many! I felt honoured to be offered a full-time job straight after finishing my 4th practicum. The school was very supportive. I am still in contact with several of the parents in the year 1 class. So much personal learning has happened since that first day in 2002. I was fortunate to follow in the footsteps of 2 amazing teachers at Mackay Kindy, where my passion for networking and advocating for early years lead me to teach the 4th year course: advocacy, leadership and change at CQU.
What have been the biggest highlights? And the greatest challenges?
Highlight moments include hearing the growth stories of the children I’ve had in class. I feel particularly proud when they recall details from our classes and remind me of how they felt in the class. Parent stories of how past students are going is also an awesome highlight.
There have been several challenges however none that couldn’t be worked through with good communication. When I have been in shared teaching roles, it has always been a priority to set up good practices from the start. For example, expectations of the room, bookwork, meeting times and curriculum. Whatever role I’ve been in, I make a point of meeting the librarian, cleaners and tech people. Having them in your corner significantly reduces challenges in a school. Similarly, parent’s names and circumstances save from some embarrassing and uncomfortable conversations.
Was there anyone in particular that inspired you to become a teacher. What was it about them that inspired you?
I knew who I didn’t want to be like… I talked a lot in class, left homework to the last minute and was often the first to help others if they found the work tough. I had dusters thrown at me, was sent to the principal’s office, held my chair over my head and spent lunchtime writing lines. I had a hardworking, supportive family and we lived in a community that was generous in delivering experiences. We set up tents, organised circus tricks and create classrooms in the front yard. I believe my family inspired me to become a teacher.
What have you learnt from this experience?
That you create your own destiny and that it’s important to have a go. No regrets, only experiences.
You have four beautiful children can you tell us about how important your family is to you? How did you juggle your job and family?
My family has always been involved. When I studied, if our parents were unavailable for babysitting, my sister, aunty or neighbours helped out. A whole village to raise a child is a big part of my life. The rich and varied experiences of our beautiful family have created supportive and caring relationships for our children. My husband and I are very honest and frank in our conversations and have open communication with our children. We have both taken turns over the past years to grow in our professions.
What are three important messages that you have hoped to instil in your children?
1. We can help sort anything, you just need to talk with us.
2. You get in much less trouble if you are truthful upfront.
3. We are on your team, you just have to trust we are right here.
What is your funniest teaching story?
I met a kindy child who had a very colourful vocabulary and the educator at the time telling me she had learnt so many new words that year.
What are your tips for teachers in general?
Teach what you enjoy and use the strategies you enjoy. Know your families, know your children – it’s all based around relationships.
Show empathy and respect and it will come back around.
What is one thing you wish pre-teaching knew about?
How important it is to foster relationships with children and families. Philosophy and neuroscience – understanding the why can definitely give you a toolkit to deal with situations better.
As a teacher/leader what legacy do you feel you have created in your students and staff?
Have a go. There are no wrongs, everything is an experience that you can learn from. Be kind.
What has been your biggest career challenge beginning in education?
I loved being in kindergartens however it can be isolating professionally. Schools have opportunities for growth and advancement in a career. Unfortunately, at this stage, working part-time and in early childhood generally doesn’t lend itself to progressing career-wise.
What motivates you now?
Advocacy. So many children do not have someone to advocate on their behalf. I believe teachers are a unique part of the puzzle, where we are positioned to advocate for the child. Whether to parents, education or health professionals, teachers are placed in the opportune position to make a change. Life is boring without change.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Is there a favourite place to go to unwind?
My garden, Pilates, having a platter of snacks in the courtyard, lying in my hammock with a good book or having coffee with a friend.
Do you make time for self-care? What do you do to look after yourself?
I don’t do diets, I eat everything (except oysters), I go to Pilates 3 x a week, read Di Morrissey and I wear floral dresses.
Do you have any favourite Book, Blog, Podcast, Instagram Facebook accounts, that you follow that inspires you?
Brene Brown, Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay and Sarah Ban Breathnach.
Where are your favourite holiday destinations?
Places where my family are together, limited internet and simple fresh meals with very few dishes. Great Keppel. I loved our 10 days in an apartment in the middle of Melbourne we experienced unique eating places, walking distance to everything and world-class shows.
What is the next step for you?
Professionally, I will be continuing to advocate for all children and families to be empowered to engage with education.
Personally, I will be continuing to simplify my life by saying no more often and giving myself time.
Teach … [verb]
1) To impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction in.
2) To instruct by precept, example, or experience
Empowering you, the teacher, to empower our children, the leaders of tomorrow.
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