Aboriginal Education Worker and Teacher Karen Andriske has a passion to help children embrace every aspect of learning available to them “within their own comfort zone”.
She has dedicated 18 years to her career at St John’s College at Dubbo, which enrolled 12 Aboriginal students in 1997 when she joined, and now has exceeded 100 students.
This increase in student enrolment is due to Karen liaising with the Aboriginal community and encouraging parents to enrol their children at the college for the betterment of their education.
Karen is fully qualified as a primary teacher with a degree from the Australian Catholic University and works one day per fortnight as a casual teacher. She feels rewarded in this position but prefers the flexibility of working as an AEW as she relishes the thought of challenging and supporting Aboriginal students to individually succeed.
“I have two disabled children of my own and I am drawn to children who have difficulties, be it behavioural, intellectual or whatever. I relish this wondrous opportunity.
“It’s not so much about fixing things, it’s about listening, understanding and providing assistance to target student’s needs as well as enabling students, families and the community to embrace the importance of educational values.
“I prioritise kids, families and the community in supporting individual’s status that sometimes hinder their learning abilities and achievement. It deeply concerns me that Aboriginal kids are not achieving as much as non Aboriginal kids due to the difficult circumstances that are beyond their control.
“If Billy’s playing up today I think ‘is there a reason for this? ‘this is out of character’ and ‘what is happening outside the school’? There is usually a reason and it is important that we all take the time to look outside the square in support of understand Billy’s behaviour. My aim is to not to leave any page unturned to help my kids.”
Karen joined the IEU 17 years ago following the advice of former Indigenous Advisor Diat Callope. She was sensitive towards cultural awareness and understanding the difficulties that Aboriginals face within society. Her advice and support has been invaluable and very much appreciated.
Karen said that on many occasions has been personally challenged and has relied on her spirituality and culture to stay strong and support the educational journey of her Aboriginal kids so that their lives will be more fruitful. She has welcomed advice from the IEU and is particularly thankful that she has a positive relationship with Organiser Jackie Groom. Karen appreciates her ongoing support, guidance and friendship in her endeavour to fulfil her dream to ‘make a difference’ to her Aboriginal kids, families, community and the school. She would encourage anyone: AEW, support staff or teacher, to join as the outcomes are rewarding.
“I want to keep supporting my kids and their families because that is what my culture entails; it is all about, ‘kinship’. Since my commencement my ‘kids’ come back and see me after they’ve left, whether it be at school or in the community, our cultural ties are never severed as our relationship is uniquely strong.”
Karen feels humble that 12 of her Aboriginal kids sat for their HSC this year. She said they have diligently strived to succeed and she is excited as they embark on a successful journey of discovery and equal opportunity.