Tuesday 23 May 2023

Cunnamulla community reignites passion for experienced teacher

Image supplied by Queensland Catholic Education Commission

Cunnamulla community reignites passion for experienced teacher

Where do you see yourself teaching in 10 years? What about 20? Primary school teacher Jenny Shellshear shared how she found herself beginning her 31st year teaching in the small town of Cunnamulla with a renewed sense of purpose.

The QCT recently spoke with Jenny to find out what drew her to relocate seven and half hours west of her home in Toowoomba.

“I started teaching in Toowoomba in 1983. I never did any Western service. I took time out to have my three children, but I still only taught in and around Toowoomba.”

When her husband’s cancer went metastatic in 2011, Jenny took leave from teaching to travel with him.

After his passing, and Jenny herself experiencing a stroke in 2017, she returned to relief teaching in the Toowoomba area.

In 2019 a friend asked her to accompany her in undertaking three days relief work in Cunnamulla.

“Have you ever had one of those defining moments in your life where you just have to draw a line under the last few years of your life and start again? That’s what I did.”

Since starting life in Cunnamulla, Jenny has not looked back and is reaping the numerous benefits remote teaching can bring, both personally and professionally. 

“There is so much professional development out here and I’ve gained so much knowledge from the leadership team.”

It is not just her experienced colleagues Jenny has learnt from; she was also quick to praise the Early Career Teachers she works alongside.

“We’ve got such wonderful graduates that come out here and of course, the children teach you so much too. You really learn from everyone.”

The small-town atmosphere of Cunnamulla has also given Jenny a renewed sense of purpose.

“I was helping the town, but I was very mindful that they were also helping me. I can make a real difference here.”

Jenny is passionate about advocating for rural and remote schools and teachers and sharing the experience she previously never considered.

“Out of all my years teaching, these years out here in Cunnamulla have been some of the most satisfying.”

“I’d encourage anyone looking for a new challenge to devote a couple of years of your career to go to a remote community because all children are entitled to quality teachers.”

While Jenny admits that she doesn’t know what the future will bring, she says that every time she considers retirement, she is reminded of how much she loves her work.

“I was going to retire, but I love what I do. I still have so much more to give.”


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