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Alumni Stories

30th Anniversary: Turning passion into practice

UC is celebrating 30 years as a university.

We've achieved a lot over the past 30 years – risen in world rankings, conducted breakthrough research, opened world-class learning, teaching and sporting facilities, and expanded our academic offerings.

All this has been possible because of the amazing people who make up the UC community.

For some, deciding at 18 what direction to take their life in can be a difficult choice. But for others, like Molly Dickson, the writing is on the wall.

The University of Canberra alumna comes from a long line of teachers, so when she finished high school, it was no surprise that she would take the same path.

“There was a time where I considered a few different career paths, but teaching was always in the back of my mind,” says Molly.

“I thought I wanted to be a chef, a hairdresser, lawyer, physiotherapist – but at the end of the day I would always come back to teaching.”

It wasn’t as if Molly’s career options were limited. She graduated from Daramalan High School in Canberra with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of 92.6.

“There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to study teaching, despite receiving a high ATAR,” says Molly.

“If people questioned my decision, I think that is a reflection of what people think about an ATAR rather than what people think about where you should go after school and what you should do.

“I think more people should be encouraged to choose teaching first. Teaching shouldn’t be a backup option for anyone, you should be able to do it because you want to do it.”

Molly ultimately decided to study a Bachelor of Early Childhood and Primary Education where she was able to turn her passion into practice.

“I loved how practical the degree was,” says Molly.

“It incorporated a lot of elements that I didn’t realise I would need. There were a few subjects where I had no idea how they correlated to working as a teacher until I got into the workforce and had to draw on what I learnt.”

After graduating in 2018, Molly relocated to the Sunshine Coast where she landed a job teaching Year 5 at Pumicestone State School.

“The school was so incredible, I was lucky for that to have been my first school to work out my teaching style,” says Molly.

“The school was only three years old when I started, so there was so much we got to shape, and many opportunities and the freedom to experiment with different things.”

Molly’s teaching style focuses on building relationships with students first. She says once she does that, everything else follows.

“You can figure out how students learn, you can figure out what strategies will help them and adjust it, but none of that can happen without getting to know the student first,” says Molly.

“I also like to promote a flexible learning area where I have beanbags and high stools spread out, because kids don’t learn in straight rows all the time. I have found they need flexibility and movement in class to get their prime knowledge out of them.”

Molly certainly made her mark in Queensland, when her colleagues nominated her for the TEACHX Excellence in Beginning to Teach award, which recognises and celebrates the inspiring work of early career teachers across Queensland.

While it first came as a shock, Molly soon realised the nomination came down to her fellow teachers and mentors recognising and allowing her to test different teaching styles and concepts.

“It was nice to realise that all the different work I had been doing was noticed, and I felt supported to continue on the path I was on.”

Perhaps Molly’s biggest test of her career so far was teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it all happened so fast and was unpredictable, Molly says she actually felt like the situation gave her an advantage.

“I grew up with so much technology, so when it came to move all of our teaching material online, people looked to me as being an expert in the field,” says Molly.

“It was very rewarding because I got to step up and had the opportunity to show my strength.”

Molly is now back in Canberra, teaching Year 4 at Burgmann Anglican School and has big plans to continue her study into the theory behind learning.

“I love flexible seating and open learning and I really want that to become standard practice in all schools,” says Molly.

“I love teaching kids, going into the classroom and not knowing what is going to happen next, but I am also very interested in the big theories.

“Knowing that I can come back to UC and be able to use this wealth of knowledge to further my own is very exciting.”

Words by Katarina Slavich, photos supplied.

In this special 30th anniversary series, UnCover is sharing the inspiring stories of UC staff, students, and alumni.

Know someone with a great story? Send their details to stories@canberra.edu.au.

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