Forks in the river

by frank-stuart

“Sometimes you feel like you’re a thousand miles from the big smoke,” says Rural Area Relief teacher Jeremy Ng”.

While he can smile about it now, Jeremy’s dream of being a PE Teacher momentarily seemed as remote as any inland rural town. In retrospect, missing out on the entry score needed to make it into one of the big Sydney universities was simply the first step in a journey that has taken him further than he could have imagined – and not merely in geographical terms.

“Adversity is just another word for opportunity,” Jeremy says when conversation turns to the increasingly dynamic higher education market in Australia that saw him weigh a number of alternatives following high school. The opportunity that stood out most decisively was the Australian College of Physical Education (ACPE), a leader in sport and dance education since 1917. “I decided on an ACPE degree because of its reputation, and also its location. Located in the centre of Sydney’s Olympic Park precinct, I felt the facilities here would accelerate my education and give me a sense of being immersed in a PE lifestyle. I was also attracted to the fact that the college specialises exclusively in sports-related degrees.”

While those disciplines now include Sports Business, Dance, Fitness and Sports Science, and Sports Coaching, the degree program Jeremy applied for at ACPE was the college’s renowned four-year Bachelor of Education (Physical Education & Health), a qualification that comprehensively equips student-teachers for the pressures of the modern classroom environment. “At ACPE the emphasis is always on combining theory with hands-on practice. Experiential learning is industry speak for ‘real world exposure’ – and we got that before we graduated, through the Professional Experience work placements. I was speechless when I received the Max Hector “Champions of Champions” at the inaugural ACPE Awards night. It was such an honour and I remember it well as the beginning of some exciting experiences in my life.”

From Jeremy’s current school out in rural Australia, his real world exposure is diverse to say the least, offering him ample opportunity to contribute in a rural education context where 99% of the student body is Indigenous Australian. “As an RAR teacher – and in addition to my Year 7/8 and 9/10A PD/H/PE classes – I work every day and cover lessons when other teachers are absent due either to illness or professional development. The challenge of the unknown helps me tests myself in a demanding environment. So far I have experienced periods of teaching in the primary school ranging from Kindergarten to Year 6, which I have loved, and also fulfilling secondary school roles across many different subject areas.”

When asked to sum his progress, Jeremy is struck by the speed with which his professional ambitions have resolved. “ACPE gave me the tools to hit the ground running. Like I said, I knew its facilities would be great – what I didn’t know was how welcoming and inclusive the staff and other students would be. In addition to the support I received from family, I’m grateful to a friend of mine Scott McLennan for introducing me to the wonderful opportunity of teaching in outback Australia. Now I’m doing every day what I dreamed of – working with kids, developing as a teacher and photographer and, contributing to a community in ways that feel meaningful to me. I now have a career that is every much as challenging as it is rewarding – I couldn’t have asked for more.”

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