Teachers at schools in rural or remote communities have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of their students.
Known as central schools, the education hubs serve students from kindergarten through to year 12 under one roof, enabling an unrivalled continuity of care.
Dr Greg Wilson is principal of Woodenbong Central School, a relatively remote school at the foot of the Northern Border Ranges, about 100 kilometres from both Casino and Lismore.
The school has an enrolment of 190 students from kindergarten to year 12, with approximately one in three from the local Githabul Nation aboriginal community.
This is Dr Wilson's first appointment at a central school, and he says it's a "fantastic place to teach".
"The high level of connection between the school and our local communities is a real factor in the school's operation," he says. He points out the benefits of watching students progress all the way through from their early years.
"As a secondary teacher, you observe the love infants students have for learning and you see the value of early intervention and know your students before they come to high school," Dr Wilson says. "And primary teachers see the reward of their efforts as students move to high school and beyond."
The remote location is not without its challenges. Facilities readily available in larger centres are not always there in smaller communities. Dr Wilson says this means the school has to be innovative and creative to support students to connect with the wider world.
"We work hard to provide them with opportunities within and outside the school," he says.
"One of the strengths of public education in NSW is how easily we can connect with other government schools to create opportunities for our students and teachers."
Technology is also harnessed to help to reduce the tyranny of distance. It can give staff and students access to services, other students, and teachers across the state, the country and overseas.
"At Woodenbong we use technology to enhance learning," Dr Wilson says. "It works hand in hand with more traditional pedagogies to augment our traditional strengths, reflecting the increasing role of technology in agriculture."
Teachers looking for a strong sense of community should consider working at a Central School, says Dr Wilson.
"The school is an integral part of our wider community and vice-versa. We support and are supported by our indigenous and non-indigenous communities.
"Our staff put the students at the centre of everything they do, including their willingness to innovate to support them."
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