A reinvigorated and inspired TAFE Western Mudgee College Foundation Skills teacher Berni Aquilina has returned from an amazing learning experience in Canada with practical ideas she hopes will improve learning for students in Mudgee and the central west.
Ms Aquilina spent five weeks in Canada after winning a $15,000 Premier’s Scholarship in July last year, investigating how basic adult education is delivered to their Aboriginal (Indian) and remote students and exploring ways these techniques can be introduced in Australia.
“It was great to step outside the daily teaching and administration tasks to broaden my knowledge and gain an international perspective for my teaching area of Foundation Skills and Literacy,” Ms Aquilina said.
“I learnt, first-hand, how many of the issues we face as teachers in Australia are similar in Canada (and presumably in other parts of the world), and that the experience of colonisation also has many similarities for Aboriginal people – resulting in extreme losses of culture and language.
“I will definitely be reflecting on what I’ve learnt and discussing with my colleagues and the wider community, with a view to implementing some of these ideas.”
Ms Aquilina said she was surprised and pleased to learn that TAFE Western is a leader and innovator when it comes to technology and online learning – with the organisation’s video conferencing and TAFE Western Connect (TWC) programs exceeding what she experienced in Canada.
“On the other hand, I also learnt that British Columbia has a more personal approach including brilliant, interwoven literacy services that don’t have parallels in NSW,” she said.
“For instance, community literacy coordinators work across all demographics from early childhood and families to adult learners and seniors learning about technology, and across a variety of sectors including schools, colleges and community settings. Also, volunteers support many foundation learners in a variety of settings – which enables the one-on-one support so many of these students need and wish for.
“Through many conversations with educators, and by attending a four day Great Teachers Seminar, I also gathered many small and practical ideas relevant to my teaching practice. These ranged from starter activities and classroom layouts, to ways to encourage group discussions in the class and online, including apps that are easily accessible for online learners and that allow voice as well as text discussions.”
When asked what was the highlight of her trip, Ms Aquilina said, “The entire trip was marvellous. I loved travelling with a purpose and the scenery in British Columbia is amazing - full of mountains, lakes and rivers,” she said.
“But the highlight would have to be getting to the islands of Haida Gwaii, learning about their Aboriginal culture and taking a day-long marine and cultural tour with an Indigenous-owned business. Afterwards, as I travelled across British Columbia and into Alberta, so many Canadians expressed their unfulfilled desire to visit Haida Gwaii - when I planned the trip I didn’t realise it was so precious and remote.
“Even better, my niece Melissa Capill was leaving Canada after a six month stay and we were able to overlap the few days at Haida Gwaii and she shared the tour with me.”
To check out some of Berni’s photos and more news from her trip, visit her blog https://bernistudytour.wordpress.com/