Teaching in remote communities, “you can make a real difference”


Two state school teachers tell their stories of unlikely moves from NSW’s lush north coast to the red, sandy country of Sunraysia in the state’s south west.

Public school teachers Kathryn Steward and Michael Coleman.

Michael Coleman, Executive Director of Dareton Public School:

This is my 27th year with the department and my fourth year at Dareton. I moved to the far south west of Byron Bay, where I had been a director since 2010. I have always had a deep connection to First Nations dance and culture, especially since participating in it at the 2000 Olympics. I specifically wanted to work with Aboriginal students and it was extremely rewarding.

Our students are amazing young people, many of whom overcome obstacles just to get to school every day. Stories of generational trauma affecting them and their families often bring me to tears and it is through this lens of compassion and connection that we have transformed our school.

As principal of five schools, I had to deal with everything from the removal of frogs from girls’ toilets to snakes living on the roof of classrooms and even frozen pipes. I don’t see my work as a job, but rather as a vocation.

I had taken a few years to complete my studies in my twenties while trying many other things, including acting, dancing, aerobics and teaching gym, and even joined of the Australian Step Reebok Championship bronze medal team in 1992. I have managed cafes and retail businesses, been a goat and beef farmer and a landscape gardener.

I consider teaching to be a noble and rewarding career. You make a difference in the lives and future of children. It is also one of the most difficult careers. Your work is never done; there is always more preparation you can do, more data to analyze, and more extracurricular activities you can take on. You must love children, love to learn, be super organized and relentlessly positive. It’s all about connection.

Kathryn Steward, Executive Director of Coomealla High School:

After growing up in a rural and isolated area of ​​southern Australia, completing my education and attending university in Adelaide, I worked for over 30 years in public schools in Western Sydney, the from Coffs Harbor and now from Coomealla.


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