A good teacher can make all the difference to your studies. And, here at Torrens, we’re particularly proud of our fantastic team of lecturers.
We’re confident that you’ll find our faculty inspiring and future-focussed. Especially when you discover a bit more about what drives them, why they are passionate about their respective areas of expertise and how their industry experience lends itself to preparing students for a career.
This week in the hot seat, Emma Donaldson is a lecturer for our education courses…
5 awesome things to know about Emma:
- Areas of expertise include autism, mental health, contemporary pedagogy and practice.
- Holds an Executive MBA and runs her own training and consultancy business Colours of Grey Matters (COG Matters) which focuses on community inclusion strategies for at-risk youth both locally and globally (including the United States and Caribbean).
- Named Victorian State Finalist in the Telstra Women’s Business Awards for her work in the field of autism and disability.
- Delivered a talk at TEDxSevenMileBeach on encouraging high order community thinking when it comes to inclusivity practices for special needs and disability.
- Cocreated the world-first Autism MOOC engaging participants from 82 countries.
What do you like most about your job?
I am new to Torrens University. At the moment, I like meeting the talented teams and having the opportunity to work together creating contemporary courses for educators. I am excited about the courses we are developing and the dynamic learning environment we are a part of.
What do you wish someone had told you on your first day at uni/college?
I entered the Bachelor of Education degree with the view this was a segue for me to be a dance teacher and, for the first few years of my degree, I didn’t think beyond being a dance teacher. An invitation arose in my third year to complete honours and in the last year of my degree, a lecturer said that an education degree can open up so many doors – turns out she was right. I do wish I had been told that on my first day. It would have opened my eyes to the opportunities at the beginning of my degree, not the end!
Describe a favourite teacher that you had at some stage in your education. What do you think gave them the edge?
I remember every single teacher I had in class, even those across the entire the school. Growing up in a rural town meant that every member of the community was likely to know all of the teaching staff. Each of them had very different pedagogy, behaviour management and quirks, but what they all had in common was that they genuinely cared about their students and wanted to be in the profession to create platforms for successful learning.
Which subject do you think is the most exciting class to teach and why?
I love teaching. All subjects I have been asked to be a part of excited me. It is the education journey the students embark upon, inspired by the desire to continue learning that make the subjects unique, memorable and practical. If I was to choose one subject, it would be those associated with autism. Having worked in the area for over 12 years, I continue to be in awe at the wonder of the condition and the evolution of our knowledge and understanding.
To future-proof a career in education, what do you think a person needs to meet current industry demands?
Flexibility, enthusiasm, a desire to learn with and from children, to have a sense of humour and to maintain a balanced life. But also the skills to remain fresh in education and inspiring the students. That is why our courses at Torrens are so important, as we bring relevant, contemporary and practical skill-building opportunities to teachers.
What’s your favourite career memory to date?
My career highlight was creating a learning hub for a range of learners with additional needs. The children had been asked to not return to their schools as they were considered too disruptive. The hub was designed for emotional, social and cognitive development and support. The range of needs and amazing skillsets that had not been recognised by the childrens’ previous teachers was sad and equally distressing. Our learning hub was brilliant and inspiring with successes I could only dream about. The students worked on projects individually and in groups. We had children aged 6 to 12 years old in the class which was harmonious, despite the challenges the children initially presented with. I still receive messages from the parents saying that being a part of this learning environment was the turning point for their child to reach their potential.
What are some lesser-known roles or surprising career outcomes that this course could lead to?
Moving beyond a teaching role in a classroom to a specialist role in a learning resource centre, or, being a part of a wellbeing team are both opportunities within mainstream schools. Higher education roles in the field and working for organisations specific to the condition(s) in an education role are also surprising and exciting career outcomes.
What’s happening in the education sector at the moment that excites you most?
Millennials moving into schools as 21st-century teachers creating new pathways in education and not being afraid to push against traditional pedagogy.
How do you think your international experience lends itself to your new teaching role?
I think this experience creates the conversation that students can take their career to places they may not have previously imagined. I also think the students like hearing the diverse stories and examples from abroad.
What has starting your own company taught you?
My company focuses on supporting children and their parents to gain confidence and learning skills to re-enter classrooms and schools. I work with the most disaffected learners who have not been supported by the school system. We use a pedagogical approach of project-based and self-regulated learning to create successes for the child so he or she can re-engage with formal education. These experiences drive me to create global, contemporary programs for teachers. In essence, we try to put ourselves out of a job!
We also build inclusion programs to combat stigma by developing community awareness platforms. We do this to support all learners and create opportunities for all children to thrive. Most of our work to date has been in the Caribbean.
Starting my own company was daunting – I started it when I was just 23 years old. It taught me how to further develop my problem-solving skills and how to direct my passion and motivation to change the landscape of inclusion and education. I learnt a lot about the teaching profession and the need to improve inclusion practices and support educators in the changing and global landscape of 21st-century learning.
Do you think Australia is ahead of the game when it comes to its education workforce?
Yes, but I base this solely on my overseas experiences. Recent graduate teachers with Australian or New Zealand degrees are highly sought after in contrast to other countries, mainly because of our flexibility, pedagogy practices and possibly our laid back manner!
A bit more about our courses in education…
- Flexible. All our education courses are offered online
- Access to seven campuses around Australia in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide
- None of the education courses that we offer at Torrens will qualify you to work as a teacher in an Australian classroom setting. Instead, we focus on a range of important aspects of education that are relevant to people who are already teachers who would like to complete further study to improve their practice, maybe improve their schools or maybe both, and are seeking education that is actually going to assist them to advance their careers.
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