Canadian newcomers tackle steep learning curve

Team teaching and seeing the Great Barrier Reef were among top experiences highlighted by a group of 20 exchange teachers new to Australia: 18 from Canada and two from the UK.

The group, along with teachers on exchange to public schools, gathered at the Department of Education head office at Bridge St, Sydney recently for a crash course on the finer points of the NSW and ACT accreditation systems, tax, curriculum and a few choice Aussie slang phrases.

Terry and Caroline Cox were very fortunate to find a double exchange for the second time running. The teaching duo exchanged to Perth in 2014 and are now repeating the experience in Port Macquarie.

They hail from Goderich Ontario – Terry has exchanged to Mackillop College in Port Macquarie and Caroline is at St Agnes Primary School, in the same town. They have brought their three children out on exchange once again to experience life on the east coast.

Terry will teach Phys Ed and he said adding an international set of rules to his repertoire was a bonus.

“The kids like it when I put a North American twist into their games, and I get to take new ideas back to Canada.”

Caroline said primary teaching in Australia was more structured, but also more collaborative.

“The staff are very supportive and you work as a team. In Canada you do more of your own thing.”

Colin Tinga loved his first exchange so much he’s back to repeat the experience all over again, just a few years after the first time.

Colin, from British Columbia, has once again swapped his PE role with Mark Steele at Central Coast Grammar School; so the same exchange partner and the same school.

Colin said the Central Coast was ‘lovely’ and the principal supported him returning to the school. His children have also returned to the same school they were at on the first exchange.

“This time I know the system better, so I hope to do an even better job.”

Colin understands the rules of cricket, it should be noted.

Suzanne Rea, from British Columbia, is looking for new challenges and a refresh after 18 years of teaching.

She’s taken on primary teaching at St Francis Xavier Primary School in Woolgoolga, which she says is a bit similar to her home town of Courtenay, but the shops shut earlier.

“Don’t try and buy anything on a Friday afternoon, that’s what I’ve learnt,” she said.

She said the “way things are lined up” are different at her exchange school, especially as she’s in the public system in Canada.

“It’s a big learning curve, the team teaching and collaboration is different, but everyone is really nice at the school.”

Marilyn Van der Ster from Ontario loved Sydney so much the first time she visited she named her daughter after it.

Now she’s back on exchange to show Sydney what she’s named after. Luckily, she loves the city.

Teaching Year Six at St John Bosco Primary School Engadine, Marilyn said the staff are wonderful and she is loving learning new things, but there are too many long meetings and too much planning time. Most Australian teachers would heartily endorse those comments!

She’s also loving the coastal town of Helensburgh, where the neighbours have been hospitable.

French speaker Lizanne Girourd from Ecole Secondaire Monique-Proulx in Quebec, usually teaches English as a Second Language, but she’s teaching primary classes at St Paul’s Primary School in Rutherford.

Her class has written a note saying how excited they are to get a French speaking teacher, so every morning she introduces a few phrases like ‘comment ca va’ etc.

She’s on a steep learning curve with the Aussie vernacular, trying to work out why people say ‘I reckon’ all the time.

Nicole Thauvette of Alberta and her exchange partner Nicole (Nikki) Valleri from St Agnes Catholic High School, Rooty Hill, have a lot more in common than their name.

The art/photography teachers also look similar, are close in age, live in similar apartments and even have the same bedspread.

That’s where the similarities end though, as Nicole finds her class quite different, with their uniforms and curriculum.

“There’s a lot more theory and essay writing involved. If I can take some of that theory and combine it with the more practical way we teach in Canada, I could come up with the perfect art curriculum.”

If you’d like to find out more about teacher exchange see or contact Exchange Coordinator Helen Gregory