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A Top Teacher

Name: Melanie Pitt

Taking the first step in a career in education can be daunting for any young teaching graduate fresh out of university. Melanie Pitt, however, welcomed the challenge of her first teaching position in remote New South Wales, and is now grateful for the unique opportunities it has given her.

Melanie began her first teaching job four years ago at Wilcannia Central School in outback New South Wales.

“I was targeted straight from uni to come out here to Wilcannia,” says the 25-year-old, who grew up in the country town of Inverell in New South Wales.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, to make a difference and work in the outback,” she says.

At Wilcannia, Melanie has been given the perfect chance to pursue all of her goals. She teaches special education classes from Years 3 through to 6.

The name of Melanie’s class is Kunaalia, which means ‘wooden duck’ in the Paakanji language, which is also taught at the school.

“In my class, we do lots of hands-on activities involving maths, cooking, gardening, art work, fishing and computers. We also do a life skills program every week,” says Melanie.

As challenging as the responsibilities are that Melanie has embraced by coming to teach at a community such as Wilcannia, she realises how satisfying and rewarding her work has become.

“Seeing the kids respond to us in a positive way and seeing that you can make a difference with them is a great thing,” she says. “It’s the kids that make the place.” Two of her students are also part of the Deadly young band the Wilcannia Mob.

Wilcannia Central has about 130 students, with 96 per cent of them Indigenous. And although Melanie is non-Indigenous and comes from a very different kind of community, she has quickly adjusted into the way of life in Wilcannia, particularly in relation to the cultural aspects of the Aboriginal community.

“I love it here – I love the people and the Aboriginal staff,” says Melanie. “We have a very supportive community who are accepting of the teachers and of the changes that we have made, which they see as a huge positive.

“We try to get the community involved at the school as much as we can, but the most difficult aspect remains getting the kids to come to school on a regular basis.”

After teaching for only four years, Melanie’s career is off to a flying start. In Wilcannia, she is now a huge part of the children’s lives, just as they are in hers.

“I couldn’t have wished for a better school, as far as support and opportunities go,” she says. “It’s a very special place to work.”

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