Anastasia Betts | Student | Master of Teaching (Secondary)

After completing her undergraduate degree with the University of Melbourne and Education Breadth subjects, Anastasia enrolled on the Master of Teaching (Secondary) to share her love of languages and literature with the next generation of students. She was awarded the Jennifer Duggan Leaper Scholarship, giving her financial peace of mind throughout her studies.

Master of Teaching Secondary student

Q: Can you please briefly outline your life prior to studying this program?

I completed my undergraduate and honours degrees at the University of Melbourne. I absolutely loved studying French and linguistics as my Bachelor of Arts majors and Spanish and Latin American Studies as my Diploma in Languages. Languages are my passion, and I was captivated by Francophone and Hispanophone cultures, histories, and above all, literature. As a result, I continued to pursue my passion for literature in my combined honours degree in French and Spanish and Latin American studies, where I was able to explore in greater depth the literature from French and Spanish speaking nations.

I have always been fascinated by themes surrounding identity and belonging and questions such as what does it mean to belong to another culture? Who decides whether someone belongs or not? Growing up somewhat culturally confused myself (I was the first member of my family to be born in Australia. My mother is Macedonian and Serbian, so I grew up speaking Macedonian, and my father is English and Scottish), these questions around cultural identity and belonging have always been of great interest to me. As a result of my thesis, I was lucky enough to have been awarded the Doctor Joseph Birch Hanson Prize for my thesis in the field of contemporary French poetry and or literature, which was such an extraordinary experience.

Q: Can you tell us about the Breadth subjects you studied with the Faculty of Education?

During my undergraduate degree, I was indeed lucky enough to undertake some subjects at the Faculty of Education, including Wellbeing, Motivation and Performance, Positive Leadership and Careers and AUSLAN and Visual Communication. I particularly enjoyed AUSLAN and Visual Communication, as I learned some AUSLAN signs and about the Australian Deaf Community, encompassing Deaf culture and the history of Deaf education in Australia.

AUSLAN is a beautiful language, although I really did struggle learning some of the signs, which was difficult for me to admit since I pride myself on my linguistic skills! Nevertheless, AUSLAN’s uniqueness and its importance to the Australian Deaf Community was something I particularly admired. I would love to explore the possibility of learning AUSLAN in the future.

Learn more about Breadth in Education here.

Q: Why did you choose to study at the Faculty of Education?

Prior to enrolling in the Master of Teaching (Secondary) at the Faculty of Education, I had lived in Toulouse, France, for 9 months, during which time I worked for 6 months in two middle schools as an English teacher. The experience was so rewarding and opened my eyes to the challenges of teaching. In many respects, I felt like I was pushed in the deep end, having only had tutoring and mentoring experience prior to teaching entire classes! Many of my students came from low SES backgrounds, some had different learning needs and behavioural challenges, so I often found myself stretched thin, trying my best (without prior teacher training!) to cater to my students’ needs and interests. The effort largely paid off, and I received lovely cards from my students at the end of my contract thanking me for my classes and my presence as their English teacher! It was so heartwarming to read their messages of appreciation and encouragement and to see that I did indeed make a positive impact and difference in their lives.

I really enjoyed my undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne and was quite keen to continue my studies at a Master’s level at the university. Also, the university’s reputation and particularly, the high standing of the Faculty of Education were significant factors influencing my decision.

Q: Why did you choose to study your program?

It was quite a difficult decision to choose my particular program. I was torn between the various Master of Teaching programs offered by the Faculty of Education. I have worked as an au pair in France and have had extensive tutoring experience of young primary aged children. I particularly admire their inquisitiveness and curiosity about the world, which is charming and infectious! It was a difficult choice for me between primary and secondary teaching, but I was assured that with the Master of Teaching (Secondary) I would have the possibility of teaching in both secondary and primary schools, upon the discretion of the individual school’s leadership team.

Furthermore, the main reason I was attracted to teaching was my love of languages and literature. I want to share my passion with future generations and hopefully, inspire students and make a positive impact in their lives along the way. I have grown a particular appreciation of the importance of TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages), one of my main learning areas. I am proud to call myself a Languages and TESOL Teacher Candidate, as providing a world-class education to students who come from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds is a vital part in empowering these students to fulfil their unique aspirations and dreams.

Q: Do you mind sharing which Scholarship you were awarded? How has this Scholarship helped you achieve what you wanted to so far?

I was awarded the Jennifer Duggan Leaper Scholarship in 2020. It was such a wonderful surprise, and words do not adequately describe the amount of gratitude I feel for the overwhelming generosity of Jennifer Duggan Leaper and her family.

The scholarship has given me financial peace of mind, which may not sound like much but has been such a source of relief. I have been a carer of my brother, who has non-verbal autism and an intellectual disability, throughout my life. However, when my parents separated in 2013, my mother, brother and I found ourselves in a position of severe financial hardship, and we were reliant on Centrelink payments to help make ends meet. My mother is such a strong and remarkable woman. Originally an agricultural and horticultural scientist,  she completed studies to become a yoga teacher as the role afforded her the flexibility, while having the time to care for my brother with complex needs. Throughout my life, but especially before my brother obtained permanent assisted accommodation through the NDIS, I played an important role as a carer and second parent to my brother. I looked after him on weekends, afternoons and evenings when my mother had yoga classes to teach.

As a young person at university, the demands of my caring role meant that I greatly missed out on a fair few leadership and volunteering opportunities that I was passionate about. Now, and with the financial support of the Jennifer Duggan Leaper Scholarship, I can take advantage of these opportunities.

I am currently a University of Melbourne Peer Mentor, and I have recently been asked to continue my mentoring role for a new group of first year Bachelor of Arts students commencing in semester 2, 2020. Furthermore, I am in the midst of training to become a volunteer English tutor with the Melbourne Adult Migrant English Program and Volunteer Tutor Scheme, tutoring culturally and linguistically diverse adults in Melbourne.

Finally, with the scholarship money, I would like to also pursue teaching experiences and roles overseas, particularly in Spanish speaking countries, so that I can further deepen my Spanish language skills and cultural knowledge.

Q: Are you enjoying studying at the Faculty of Education?

I am thoroughly enjoying my studies at the Faculty of Education! I am particularly enraptured by the pedagogy and theories we have been learning throughout the course. I believe that this strong theoretical foundation is the key to our success as teachers. I am especially interested in constructivism, particularly social constructivism, and learner centredness, where the learning needs and interests of individual students are at the forefront of teacher decisions.

Q: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting the course?

Before starting the course, I wish I knew about the reality of teaching in Australian schools and about the different viewpoints held by teachers regarding best practice and pedagogy. Not all teachers see eye to eye about how best to teach and cater to students’ unique interests, needs and goals. This was indeed challenging for me to observe, especially since I believe fervently and wholeheartedly in many of the pedagogies I have learned thus far at the Faculty of Education!

Nevertheless, adopting an empathetic and openminded perspective and open dialogue is an important first step to overcoming these differences of opinion. If I could offer any source of support to current and prospective Teacher Candidates it would be that there are so many different teaching experiences and roles out there, some rewarding and fulfilling and some less so. The trick is to try and find a school vision and culture that resonates with your values and beliefs regarding best teaching practice. Do not be disheartened! And who knows, you might just be a changemaker and pioneer in your school!

Q: Are you involved in any extra-curricular activities?

I volunteer as a University of Melbourne Peer Mentor and as an English tutor for the Melbourne Adult Migrant English Program and Volunteer Tutor Scheme. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was also a volunteer at the Museum of Chinese Australian History in Melbourne.

Q: What do you hope is the next step for you?

With this course, I will embark on my career as a language (French and Spanish) and TESOL teacher. I am excited to see what lies ahead, and I am very interested in teaching in Australia and overseas with my degree. The next step in my career would be to hone and develop my craft as a teacher working in schools in Australia and overseas. I would like to make a difference in the lives of my students, providing them with support and equipping them with the skills they need to thrive in the present and well into the future. I am also keen to explore the possibility of moving from secondary to tertiary education, working in universities to shape the future of teaching in Australia.

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying for your scholarship?

For any students thinking about applying for my or any of the Faculty of Education scholarships, my advice would be just apply. You never know what lies on the horizon!

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