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Bored high school student to respected community leader

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Education, High school to uni
Head shot of Haydon smiling

Haydon Staines, a proud Indigenous man, went from being a bored high school student to becoming a respected community leader. It was a path that often took him out of his comfort zone. That path included graduating with a Bachelor of Education from Charles Darwin University. Now Haydon is helping to Close the Gap* as a school Vice Principal. 

“As an Aboriginal man, Closing the Gap* is something that is quite close to home and I am extremely passionate about," says Haydon, who holds a teaching degree from CDU and is now Vice Principal of Nhulunbuy Primary School in the Gulf of Carpentaria. 

In my opinion, being there [as an educator] for the right reasons and building positive relationships is just as important as the delivery of the curriculum.

He's clearly passionate about his career as an educator. But way back in high school, Haydon sometimes felt “disconnected and bored.” So, what changed along the way to set him on an academic track?

“I remember having a few teachers who took the time to get to know me and build a positive relationship while investing in my educational journey. As a result, I ended up really enjoying school and I made some good academic progress," he says. 

I saw being a teacher as an opportunity to engage, inspire and develop future generations while having a bit of fun along the way.

Starting a teaching degree

Haydon Staines with colleagues

Studying for a Bachelor of Education (Primary) at CDU was Haydon’s logical next step. “I was hesitant to study away from Darwin or the NT without family support, especially because I was the first from either side of my family to complete Year 12,” he said.

As a student who identified as Aboriginal, Haydon appreciated CDU’s Indigenous Academic support unit. “The unit was a place I could go and always feel welcome. I would check in, have a chinwag and I always felt like I was a part of a family there,” he said.

Haydon soon knew he was on the right track, particularly when he received the Governor General’s Indigenous Teaching Scholarship, "of which I was extremely proud.”

Getting comfortable outside his comfort zone

Haydon planning his lessons

Looking back, Haydon found that CDU gave him a variety of opportunities to develop his confidence while working outside his comfort zone.

“This is something I have continued to build on in my career as a teacher," he said. 

Every day I step out of my comfort zone and instead of fearing it like I did in my first year of university, I now embrace it

Toward closing the education gap

Looking forward, Haydon is extremely passionate about Closing the Gap for Indigenous people.

In my leadership role, I can positively influence the nexus of Indigenous health, education and employment.

"I can create whole school Indigenous two-way learning programs that showcase, teach, preserve and celebrate Indigenous culture and languages, turning our students and communities into the teachers,” he concluded.

Ready to take your passion for change to the next level? Study Education with CDU.

*Closing the Gap is a government strategy that aims to reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational achievement, and employment outcomes.

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