Mariana Lenner is currently studying a Master of Education (Special Education, Advanced) at Torrens University.
Tell us a bit about your background and where you are originally from.
I’m Brazilian and although I knew since I was 18 that I wanted to be a teacher, I was convinced by family members that I should study architecture since it was something that I dreamed to do since I was a teenager, but also because teachers in Brazil make very little money. So, I studied Architecture. Towards the end of my architectural degree, I started to teach English as second language in the early childhood centre I went to as a child. When I started teaching, I knew that was my future, although I adored studying architecture. Six months after graduating, I started my bachelor’s degree in pedagogy.
Throughout my university years, I worked in different early childhood centres as an ESL teacher until I became a room teacher in a Bilingual ECC. Although we studied in university about special education and inclusive classrooms, inclusion was not properly done in any of the ECC’s I worked at or did placement in. I knew my teacher had the best intentions, but lacked knowledge and tools to make inclusion work. So, after spending one year in Melbourne, I decided to improve my own knowledge on special education.
How did you first hear about Torrens University and what made you decide to study with us?
I first heard about Torrens University through an educational agent (Latino Australia Education). Torrens had the course I wanted, at a reasonable price and an excellent campus location, and it is also part of Laureate International Universities, and so was the university where I got my pedagogy degree.
What has been the highlight of studying at Torrens so far?
Well, there have been a few, but I’ll share the three main ones: First, the amount of support from the university and its professors has been incredible. Everyone seems genuinely worried about our mental wellbeing and our sense of belonging in the Torrens community. They also listen to our needs and adjust, as much as possible, to make sure everyone has the best experience they can provide.
Second, our professors are fantastic. They have a lot of knowledge in their areas and they are always interested in connecting their knowledge to ours and to each of the student’s backgrounds. We are all learning together, always.
Lastly, our classroom is composed of many different nationalities and we all respect everyone. That has lead to rich discussions on a daily basis where we all learn a bit more about each others culture and how special education in viewed in each country. Everyone’s personal story also brings different interpretations of case studies and solutions to problems, giving everyone a broad spectrum of viewpoints in each case.
What was it like leaving home and moving to Australia to study?
As I mentioned before, I moved to Australia a year before starting my studies, but moving here has been an adventure so far with many positive outcomes. I am in love with Melbourne and the variety of cultures I’ve encountered do far. I met a new person from a different country at least once a month, and my group of friends consists of many different nationalities, which I adore.
What do you like most about living and studying in Australia?
Feeling safe to walk the streets and to express my ideas. I know Australia is not perfect, but I haven’t found a big city as amazing as Melbourne so far, and I have travelled a lot. I feel included here.
How has your time at Torrens prepared you for a career?
The variety of cultures and the safe and open space we have to talk freely has erased many of the stigmas I previously had, and that has definitely prepared me to work with different people without judgment. Everyone has their own story and experiences and my job as a teacher is to make sure that everyone has the same chance to succeed.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I hope I go back to teaching. With my new knowledge I am sure I’ll be able to have an inclusive classroom and will try to pass on what I’ve learned to other teachers so all children can have a sense of belonging in their school communities.