“Our youth – who are in their infancy of learning what, why, when and how to employ strategies for positive wellbeing need adult role-models who can share their experiences and positive approaches.” Nigel Vernon, Torrens University Educator
Meet Nigel Vernon, one of our educators who has been given the important task of writing the content for education courses at Torrens University.
At Torrens, it’s understood that the best knowledge on how to teach comes from experienced teachers themselves. Nigel was selected for the job because of his long, rich career as a teacher – a career that’s spanned cultures, kilometres and 20 years. He’s worked across a broad spectrum of education settings during his life, including cattle stations and settlements in Arnhem Land, a juvenile detention facility and public and private schools in Victoria.
“After graduating with a Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) I took up my very first teaching role at a small Aboriginal community school on a cattle station in the outback of the Northern Territory. From the outset, being exposed to teaching students learning a foreign language, and with very limited resources I became very resourceful in my approach to teaching and learning. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have this initial experience, igniting my interest in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of individualised teaching and learning.”
Charged with Responsibility and promoting health
During his time in the Northern Territory, Nigel became charged with the responsibility of promoting hearing health across the East Arnhen region. Many children and young people in this area suffer from Ear Disease, a condition that affects their education as well as social and emotional wellbeing.
As a result, Nigel developed a growing interest in the impact of mental and physical health on education and the experience of ‘difference’ among children and young people. This growing interest would shape his future career.
“Schooling for our youth, at institutions such as primary and secondary schools, needs to be more than development across different disciplines as a collective. Each student is an individual with specific needs that have to be addressed if we want to best support their acquisition of knowledge and skills.
I strongly believe that every child wants to do well but too often their needs are not fully understood, therefore dramatically impacting upon their ability to experience positive personal, interpersonal and academic development, often resulting in poor behaviour and lifestyle choices.
Upon my return to country Victoria, teaching primary-aged students I became immediately drawn to the development of programmes and processes for better understanding and supporting the education and development needs of individuals on the Autism Spectrum, and with specific social, emotional and academic needs.”
Motivated by his passion for supporting kids with learning differences
Nigel co-developed a peer-to-peer learning program to help professionals develop new learning experiences.
“This programme evolved into a commercially available service. During this time, I also accepted the role of Head of Case Management at an independent school. This involved providing for the social, emotional and academic support of individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as support for their family and the education and training of School staff to best support these individuals.
To offer the best level of early intervention and support I developed a unique on-campus support facility for students with an ASD or specific social and emotional needs.”
The Importance of Recognising Differences
During his 20-year career as an educator, Nigel has witnessed a broad range of challenges faced by children and young people in the classroom. In particular, he’s focused his attention on those children and young people who struggle with learning differences, mental health issues and social disadvantage. He believes that in order to properly respond to these challenges, schools and communities need to work together and treat kids as individual learners.
“The recognition of youth difference and mental health well-being is most important. The way an individual feels about the way their difference (and we are all different!) is recognised, accepted and supported impacts directly on their mental health.”
In his eyes, the future of education looks bright
“Schools will become a more central hub of youth, and family support services, all contributing to the overall education and promotion of positive life-skill development. I feel this development of more pronounced links between education, training, the workforce and health services will serve to best support our students, their families and ultimately the well-being of our communities.”
As an educator, Nigel also understands that teachers need support and training in order to help their students face their own challenges.
Support and Training is key
“Ongoing education and training, and the establishment and support of proactive, open support networks between educators are most important. Educators should be encouraged to seek, implement and develop new knowledge and skills.
It is also important for a school’s staff to listen and learn from the youth and the community with whom they represent and support. Additionally, school leadership teams need to help school staff, including a school’s administration, support and ground staff to investigate and initiate change.
I don’t believe all aspects of the current education system are supportive of the ongoing training and allowance of time and energy required for educators to better develop a sound understanding of their individual students. But that is not to say we, in our roles as facilitators and supporters, cannot share our experiences to learn how to best support each of our students.”
Torrens University Graduate Certificates and Masters Courses: training for teachers, by teachers
As a content writer, Nigel has the opportunity to pour all of his 20 years of experience into the Torrens University education courses he’s contributing to. He’s just one of a team of staff who are developing teacher training courses from direct experience. At Torrens University, the courses on offer for educators are written by educators.
As Nigel points out, if you want to support kids and young people with their unique challenges, it’s essential to get the right training. The Masters of Education and Graduate Certificate Courses in Education offer options for specialised training in Autism, Mental Health, Special Education and Innovation and Change.
What does Nigel think other educators can get out of these courses?
“The course materials are dynamic and thought-provoking. The associated activities and required assessments encourage open interaction between the lecturer/facilitator and the students. Plus, the courses have been constructed by experienced professionals currently working in specific areas of education. These educators bring with them a progressive approach to the facilitation of positive educational experiences for learners with specific needs. Enrolling in a course offered at the Torrens University, particularly the courses designed for the exploration and development of knowledge of learning differences, will offer a unique, dynamic and relevant further training experience.”