At the start of 2020, Richard Niu was focused on finishing his studies at the University of Canberra when he received a phone call that would change the course of his year – and his life.
“I got a phone call from the Faculty of Education at UC, and I was asked if I would be interested in a teaching job,” Richard says.
“I said sure, but I assume this won’t be until I graduate … but they said no, it’s fine, you graduate in 10 weeks – you can do this.”
Richard was offered a part-time teaching role at Lake Tuggeranong College in Canberra’s south, teaching mathematics to Year 11 and 12 students.
“I was really amazed, very happy and felt very lucky,” Richard says.
Richard was about to graduate with a Bachelor of Secondary Education and a Bachelor of Mathematics and Information Technology. He had completed all his education units, but had one IT unit remaining.
His road to teaching wasn’t a straightforward one. Richard initially began studying a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Finance at the Australian National University, but soon realised he wanted to take his life down a different path.
“I was never going to own a business, so I thought: why am I studying commerce?” he says.
“So, I made the decision to study something I could see myself doing for a long time, and I am very happy that I made that decision.”
Richard started teaching in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic saw many students across the country switch to online learning from home.
Richard says his background in IT was extremely helpful during this time and made the transition to online teaching a lot easier.
“When I first started, I was recording videos over the weekend and posting them online for the students to access on Monday,” he says.
“I would then jump online for their double lessons once a week, where they could ask me questions one-on-one.”
Now that the students are back in the classrooms, Richard says that teaching feels very natural and he is really enjoying it.
“When I finally met the students face-to-face, I told them upfront that I was still at university, and they liked me instantly!” Richard says.
He was initially teaching two classes, but his role at the school is now set to become more permanent.
“There are a couple of teachers who are set to retire at the end of the year and the school would like to get me onboard as a full-time teacher,” Richard says.
“I am really grateful to UC for making all this possible by recommending me for the job.”
Now that Richard has graduated and is well on his way to building a career in teaching, he has this message for future education students.
“If you enjoy helping people, then teaching is a good, lifelong degree that you can use immediately after graduation, or put on hold for a later time in life,” Richard says.
“Teaching is a career suited to those who enjoy devoting their time to others.”
Words by Katarina Slavich, photos supplied.
Richard is from the University of Canberra’s graduating class of 2020 – the first year that graduations will be held virtually.
It's been a challenging year unlike any other – and our graduates have risen to meet it with spirit, heart and courage.
Many of our world-ready graduates are already pushing boundaries and blazing trails in their chosen industries. Many others have one foot in the industry, and one in academia, as they further their postgraduate learning.
We are proud of you, and we cannot wait to see what you will do next.