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Online teaching degree with "loads" of prac: Meet Matt

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Balance work, life and study, Changing careers, Education, Online study, Pathways to Uni
Matt, CDU teaching student smiling

After finishing school without a Year 12 High School Certificate (HSC), Matt thought his dreams of becoming a teacher were dashed. But, thanks to a free bridging program, flexible online study and “loads of practical” through a teaching degree at Charles Darwin University, he’s returned to school in his mid-20s. This time as the teacher.

After Year 12, Matt tried his hand at the trades for a while, but this career path wasn’t for him. In his 20s, he decided it was time to find a way to try and fulfill his dream of becoming a teacher.

Now, Matt teaches his own class. “It would have been nice to be teaching a little bit earlier, but because I was slow out the gates after Year 12, I’m just getting going.

Looking back, I’d say to my younger self: ‘Study hard in year 12, and even if your grades don’t work out, give uni a go after high school'.

"Don’t leave it so late. You can always change your mind after you've started," says Matt. 

With no HSC (a High School Certificate), Matt completed a bridging course to get into Charles Darwin University. The free, 16-week course covered the basics of university study, and gave him the skills and confidence to get started with his online teaching degree (as well as helping him meet the entry requirements). 

No compromise on practical experience

CDU student Matt North with his class

Studying a teaching degree online was important to Matt, but not at the expense of the practical experience he’d need to be ready for the classroom.

“My mum did her teaching degree at Charles Darwin University, and I loved that she had a practical placement in the first semester of her first year,” says Matt.

“I know that’s not the norm with all universities; I did consider other universities, but they were more prescriptive about where I did placements and I was keen to stay local.

Charles Darwin University has arranged some great placements for me, all within 10 minutes of my home in regional New South Wales.

"I like that you’re in a classroom early in the degree, learning the ropes. And I got to experience different types of schools, demographic areas and leadership styles," he says.

Support for online study

CDU student Matt North studying on his laptop with his wife next to him

I don’t feel like I’ve missed out as an online student.

"In fact, the flexibility of online study has allowed me to study at my own pace, stay close to home and continue working," says Matt.

"During my degree, I started working as a teacher's aide, so it was the perfect combination. It was like doing an apprenticeship while studying my degree."

Matt also worked part-time at a saddlery, so the study-work-home juggle was real. A flexible ‘campus’ experience was key to his success.

“If I had a bad day I could just think, ‘You know what? I’m not going to do any work tonight. I’ll do double tomorrow’. It’s worked really well with my lifestyle.

I didn’t have to waste time travelling to and from campus. My campus varied from the office upstairs or my bedroom downstairs.

“I never felt alone in my studies. The technical and academic support at CDU is excellent," says Matt. 

“My course materials were 100% online, and I could jump on to study on my phone or laptop. My lecturers were quick to respond and catered to a range of learning styles. I had access to 24/7 technical support.

“Because my lecturers uploaded all modules at the start of each semester, I could move through them at my own pace. Doing several at once or catching up when I had the time.”

Learning to teach Indigenous children

Matt’s teaching degree has prepared him to work in diverse classrooms and better relate to children from local Indigenous communities.

I liked the fact that I could study subjects in Indigenous knowledges.

"This really opened my eyes to how Indigenous children learn and how to alter lessons to bring in their culture," says Matt. 

“I’ve found that Indigenous children respond really well when I show an interest, and it helps them to accept and own their culture.

“It’s as if they think: ‘If my non-Indigenous teacher is prepared to learn about my culture, I should also be prepared to learn about it and respect it’.”

Matt’s degree laid the foundations of his knowledge of Indigenous cultures, and he continues to learn.

“With the permission and support of our Aboriginal education officer, I’ve been able to incorporate cultural learnings into my programs," he says. 

The final bell

Having secured a full-time job, Matt’s becoming the teacher he always hoped to have when he was at school. As for his family? “They’re stoked I won’t be staying up until midnight doing assignments and using the loud coffee machine!”

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