Inspiring teacher stories

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Ms Logan

Setting the stage for success: Ms Logan’s story

Take a look at the big screen and there’s no shortage of inspiration for the kind of teacher Ms Mary-Jane (MJ) Logan hoped to be.

From Miss Honey in the classic film Matilda, to Mr Finn in School of Rock, Ms Logan notes how we celebrate teachers for their passion and wisdom beyond the classroom.

“It's not just a person who understands educational theory,” she explains. “It's a person who really loves what they do and wants to share that.”

Ms Logan recalls this message hitting close to home in a letter from one of her former students, Zufie, who compared her teaching to Robin Williams’s beloved character John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

“I always wanted to have a teacher that was like the ones on movies,” Zufie wrote. “Thank you for being the one teacher who motivated me to love and appreciate all types of literature.”

Zufies’s card was just one of many mementos in Ms Logan’s ‘feel good file,’ an overflowing collection of messages quietly reaffirming the impact of her 20-year teaching career.

Looking back on the card was a moving moment for Ms Logan, who remembers encouraging Zufie to reach for her dreams.

“She told me a long time ago that she wanted to audition for a drama school, and I said, ‘you should totally do it, don't listen to the people who say you can't,’” she remembers.

Years later, Zufie is working as an actor and producer and recently finished producing a documentary.

For Ms Logan, helping kids like Zufie achieve their potential will always be the best part of the job.

“If I see a passion in a kid, and they really want to do something, I will be the biggest advocate for them to see that through,” Ms Logan says.

Mary-Jane Logan
MJ Momento

Miss Rice

Investing in Australia’s future: Miss Rice’s story

Secondary school teacher Miss Rice sees her career as an investment in a more equal future for country kids who might be interested in pursuing careers in agriculture and STEM.

“Kids can sell themselves short out here,” Miss Rice says. “I try to empower them and make sure they don’t feel limited by anything.”

Miss Rice, who teaches Year 7‑12 at a regional NSW school, is passionate about introducing her students to new technologies and encouraging them to pursue their interests.

She recently applied for and brought an iFarm, a fully computerised and interactive farm science research station, to her school.

“Opening their eyes is so special,” Miss Rice enthuses. “When you show them something new and you see them light up with excitement, it is so worth it.”

For Miss Rice, it is important for young students to see women succeeding in agriculture.

“There are a lot of young female students I teach that are so passionate and clever when it comes to agriculture,” she says.

This year, Miss Rice’s students were gifted with two beautiful ribbons after participating in the School Merino Wether Challenge, an annual event which educates students and teachers about the merino industry. These ribbons serve as a daily reminder for Ms. Rice of how she is inspiring her students to follow their passions, and making an impact on her students' lives.

One of Miss Rice’s students, who wants to work in agriculture, told her that the challenge was a great learning experience.

“It is such a privilege to witness your students growing in their confidence, engaging with current industry leaders and being inspired to make a difference,” Miss Rice says.

Recently, Ms Rice asked her students what they wanted to be when they grew up. She was moved when one of her students piped up, “I think I’d like to be a Miss Rice.”

“It meant so much to me to hear that," she explains. “I had many wonderful teachers throughout my school years, and it has always been my mission to make sure my students felt they could look up to me the way I looked up to my teachers in the past.”

She adds, “Being involved in young students’ education is a privilege, and one that constantly challenges me to never stop learning and be better than I was yesterday.” For Miss Rice, the two ribbons remind her of this privilege every day.

Emma Rice
Emma Memento

Mrs Bishop

Coming full circle: Mrs Bishop’s story

In over a decade of teaching, Mrs Susan Bishop has received many special mementos from her students. But one story in particular stands out.

“I taught Jerushi in 2013, my second year of teaching,” Mrs Bishop recalls. “She was in Australia on a refugee visa with her dad. Her mum had stayed behind in her home country, so it was an emotional time for her.”

Mrs Bishop supported Jerushi during Year 6 and encouraged her love of art and poetry. At the end of the year, Jerushi gave Mrs Bishop a beautiful landscape artwork which she had painted.

“She wanted to give me something to remember her by,” Mrs Bishop says. “I told her, ‘Of course, I’ll always remember you.’”

Although Jerushi stayed in Australia for another few years, Mrs Bishop lost touch with her once she went back home. Then, a couple of years ago, Jerushi reached out to Mrs Bishop to share some news. At the time, Jerushi’s painting was hanging above Mrs Bishop’s desk in her home office – proof that Mrs Bishop had never forgotten her.

“She told me that she was now at university, studying to become a teacher just like me," Mrs Bishop says. “It was a beautiful message.” She adds, “As a teacher you’re just doing your job, and you often don't realise the kind of impact you can have.”

It was a full circle moment for Mrs Bishop, who remembers reaching out to her own Year 3 teacher five years ago with a similar message.

“I emailed to tell him he was part of the reason I became a teacher,” Mrs Bishop says. “His love and passion for books really inspired me.” For Mrs Bishop, teaching is both a pleasure and a privilege. “When parents thank me, I tell them, ‘No, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your child’s life.’”

Susan Bishop
Susan Momento

Ms Cashin

Creating a legacy of teachers: Ms Cashin’s story

Ms Alexandra Cashin credits her first teacher as the inspiration for why she became a teacher.

She remembers, on the very first day of Year 1, “I came home and told my mum I wanted to be a teacher, and I have never changed my mind.”

Ms Cashin recently started teaching a small Year 12 class in the rural town of Kingaroy, taking on the class mid-year. Ms Cashin describes her teaching style as firm but fair. She focuses on unlocking each student’s potential and helping them practice towards progress.

“It's really wonderful to watch them grow, to help them build that confidence and start to see some successes,” she says. “Then the joy that comes from there.”

At the end of the year, Ms Cashin received a heartfelt card from one of her students, Lawson. He thanked her for helping him to see his own strengths and build his confidence.

As Lawson puts it, “It takes luck to get a good teacher, so I guess I won the lottery.”

Much like her own Year 1 teacher, Ms Cashin’s support shaped Lawson’s decision to become a teacher.

“He's now started a teaching degree,” says Ms Cashin, “and he’s hoping to make an impact on kids just like him.”

In Ms Cashin’s opinion, the best part about being a teacher is the lasting impact they can have on students.

“You can teach them lots of different things and different skills, but what they will always remember is how you made them feel,” she observes.

For Ms Cashin, every teacher and student are puzzle pieces collaborating to form a larger picture of inspiration and change.

“My story with Lawson is just one of many stories of teachers and young people,” she says. “I feel proud for us all.”

Alexandra Cashin
Alex's Momento

Ms Bubner

Never too late: Ms Bubner’s story

Ms Melaine Bubner never thought she would be a teacher, but life had other plans. After raising her own kids and taking on various roles at their school, a colleague suggested she give teaching a go.

“I was keen to help out more, and when the school said ‘we need teachers,’” she says, “I thought, ‘I’m the uniform shop lady and I’m the admin lady, but I’m not a teacher.’”

Despite her initial reservations about whether teaching was a good fit for her, Ms Bubner went on to graduate from her first university degree, a Bachelor of Primary Education, at the age of 40.

Today, sitting at a desk surrounded by mementos from all the kids she’s taught, Ms Bubner can confidently say becoming a teacher was one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

“The moments where you see how much impact you’re having are so precious,” she beams.

Amid a sea of cards and drawings, one keepsake in particular stands out: a giant puzzle of A4 papers taped together and adorned with colourful hearts. It arrived at Ms Bubner’s desk when she needed it most.

“I was having a tough day and one of the other teachers picked up on it,” Ms Bubner explains. “She had asked some of my previous students if they wanted to send me a note.”

The entire Year 5 class got to work, with each student contributing to the canvas and writing personal messages about their time with Ms Bubner as their teacher.

“You’re so kind and generous,” read one message, while another thanked her “for being amazing.”

For Ms Bubner, the canvas of messages serves as an important reminder that a teacher’s impact stays with students long after they leave the classroom. “There are definitely bonds you make that will last forever,” she says.

Melanie Bubner
Melaine Bubner Momento

Mr McCausland

The superheroes of our society: Mr McCausland’s story

Our heroes are often symbols of safety and empowerment. Their greatest feat is their ability to bring out our inner strengths.

Mr Andrew McCausland, who teaches Year 3 and 4 classes, was both taken aback and filled with gratitude to receive a gift from his student Madeline, thanking him for his kindness and empathy.

“She drew this wonderful picture of me as Superman, with the words ‘you’re a super teacher’ at the top,” Mr McCausland recounts.

The handmade card is a testament to how teachers can be heroes in the eyes of their students.

Reflecting on his years in school, Mr McCausland points out that more than anything, he cherished teachers with empathy.

“I think, for me, the most amazing and inspirational teacher was one who understood how I operated and how I learned best,” he says. It’s this same level of compassion that he extends to all his students, fostering a classroom environment that sets students up to thrive. “Madeline feels safe in the classroom. She can be having a rough morning or trouble with friends, but she knows that when she walks through those doors, the rest of the world can melt away,” he says. The memento represents all the things that make Mr McCausland super to Madeline – someone who’s in her corner and is helping her along her learning journey. “We get to build those relationships,” Mr McCausland says. “We see their growth and witness them have those ‘ah-ha’ moments.” Ultimately, the card showed Mr McCausland how much he and his work are valued by his students. “I’m not normally great at accepting compliments, but to know that you’re having that kind of impact makes me feel lucky and proud to do the work we do,” Mr McCausland says.

Andrew WMcCausland
Andrew McCausland’s Memento

Mr Benton

Seeing dreams through to the end: Mr Benton’s story

There’s no denying Year 12 is a defining year in many students’ lives, but chemistry teacher Mr Liam Benton wouldn’t have it any other way.

He explains, “You put in a lot of work for Year 12 students but, equally, you get it back in return.”

While gratitude from students has never been hard to come by, one student’s recent journey especially moved him.

“Myrtali was super motivated to get a high score because she wanted to become a doctor,” he says.

Located in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, Mr Benton’s school has one of the highest numbers of students with English as a second language. Like Myrtali, many have dreams of going on to pursue higher education.

While it’s not always an easy journey, Mr Benton never puts limits on what any student can achieve.

“What I really hope to impart to students is for them to have high standards for themselves,” he says, “I want to show them how far they can reach.”

Mr Benton supported Myrtali to complete over 40 practice papers by the time she sat her final chemistry exam.

The efforts paid off when she achieved the school’s highest-ever ATAR and said her goodbyes to Mr Benton at the Year 12 graduation.

It was there they took a group photo with the class, now etched on a wooden block that lives on his desk– a keepsake given to Mr Benton by Myrtali.

“To get that token of appreciation is pretty special,” says Mr Benton. “I deeply value the privilege of helping them chase their dreams.”

For Myrtali and her class, the real privilege was learning from a teacher who had confidence in them, even when they may not have had it in themselves.

Liam Benton
Liam Benton Momento

Mrs Battersby

Helping young children to take on the world: Mrs Battersby’s story

Early childhood teacher Mrs Edwina Battersby notes that many of her students are still developing both socially and emotionally.

“In pre-primary, the kids are always quite anxious to come into class,” Mrs Battersby says. “It’s their first formal year of learning, some of them haven't even been to kindergarten yet, and it's the first time they're leaving their parents.

”She remembers one student in particular, Keira. “She was the sweetest student. I spent a lot of time getting to know her and her family, trying to make my classroom a really safe space for her.”

At the end of 2021, Keira gave her the illustrated book Because I Had a Teacher with a note inside, thanking Mrs Battersby for teaching her to be brave and believe in herself.

Written by Kobi Yamada, the book follows the adventures of a bear cub and their teacher and celebrates the inspirational and educational impact the teacher had.

Mrs Battersby recognised the main character bear as a parallel to a toy bear Keira always kept close at hand.

“She had a beautiful little teddy called Smokey,” Mrs Battersby recounts. “That was her safety net. Sometimes she would just talk to me about Smokey and the adventures they’d have at home.”

She adds, “Getting special mementos like this has to be the best feeling in the world.”

For Mrs Battersby, the relationship a teacher has and builds with their students is incredibly important.

“You might have 30 children in your class and you see each other every school day,” she observes. “So I try to work really closely with them, giving them positive support. Hopefully this helps them to feel able to take risks and try things that they find hard.”

Edwina Battersby
Edwina's Momento