Eight University of New England (UNE) students based in Nauru have spent four weeks developing their practice as future teachers in a range of schools around Armidale.

The four weeks formed the students’ first practical component of a UNE teaching qualification they’ll gain in Nauru, thanks to a partnership between the government of Nauru, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and UNE.

The program’s organiser from UNE’s School of Education, A/Prof Pep Serow, said the experience is important for broadening the students’ professional practice.

“Having the opportunity to teach in Australian schools in Armidale gives the students access to a wider range of available educational tools and strategies that they can choose make use of in their teaching career in Nauru,” A/Prof Serow said.

“Many of the students make lasting connections with their mentoring teachers in Armidale, helping them to develop an international professional network which gives them a professional edge and greater support network as they study and when they graduate.”

The students are enrolled in a two-year teaching program through UNE – an Associate Degree in Teaching (Pacific Focus) – which meets the Nauruan requirements for qualified teachers. The teaching practical at UNE in Armidale complements their face-to-face learning in Nauru.

“The students have access to a UNE lecturer at all times in Nauru in a small UNE centre. They also have fulltime support online with UNE lecturers in Australia,” A/Prof Serow said.

“Having a practical teaching block in Armidale is a great opportunity for them to meet all their UNE lecturers face-to-face and develop that relationship.”

A/Prof Serow says the experience has benefited everybody involved.

“There’s been nothing but glowing reports from the school principals and supervising teachers, and it was so lovely to see them get so involved in the Armidale community. They have done their nation proud and have so many beautiful stories to tell,” she said.

Likewise, the students feel the experience has helped them prepare for a career in teaching.

Daniel, who completed his teaching experience at O’Connor Catholic College, said while it was a bit scary at first walking in to teach high school students, he has become much more confident.

“Being our first prac, you fear teaching at first. This program helped us overcome our fear. And if we can teach in Australia using our second language – what can be the problem in Nauru?”

Similarly, Litia, who taught at Sandon Public School, said the program had made a difference to her confidence.

“It made me feel comfortable and has helped a lot. At Sandon they say, ‘practise makes perfect’ and I kept reminding myself of that. I now feel like I’m ready to do this!” Litia said.

And it wasn’t all work, with the students also enjoying full weekend itineraries to see the wildlife and explore the region, including trips to Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, ensuring their time in Australia has been an experience they won’t forget anytime soon.

Image: Five Nauruan UNE students tackle Point Lookout in New England National Park. L-R: Prisca, Anahbele, Hathie, Daniel and Ennea