Jeremy Bridger has always known that he belongs on the beach, or close to the bush. Now that he’s completed a Bachelor of Primary Education (Health and Physical Education) at the University of Canberra, Jeremy is taking his skills to regional NSW, where he can make a difference in the lives of young people, while living the lifestyle he loves.
After a working gap year, Jeremy began his studies at UC in 2017, originally in a Bachelor of Secondary Education (Health and Physical Education) with a major in Integrated Environmental Management, before switching to a Bachelor of Primary Education (Health and Physical Education).
Jeremy is currently working as a built-in relief teacher across two ACT primary schools, Arawang Primary School and Duffy Primary School. This model of staffing means that a teacher who is familiar with the school and community is on hand to provide the day-to-day relief that’s so crucial in a busy school environment.
While providing the schools with flexibility and certainty, the role also provides Jeremy with a refreshing variety of day-to-day experiences.
“Every age group, and every child is so different. This role is good because I get to try it all out,” Jeremy says.
“There are 12-year-olds whom you can enjoy having an intellectual conversation with, you almost forget they’re quite young, because they’re wise beyond their years.
“I've also done a few days in the preschool – that's always really funny. They're so little and I'm always surprised with how confident they are. They’ll come right up to you and ask all sorts of questions. I just love spending time with the students.”
Even before he became a qualified teacher, Jeremy had been working in schools as a youth worker. In this role, he would work with young people who might be facing challenging personal circumstances or difficulties with fitting in to the school environment. It’s his experience supporting these children that has influenced his teaching philosophy.
“Having been a youth worker, I’ve worked with students who have come from all variations of backgrounds. Your job is to get them in the best place or the best headspace that they can be in, to set them up for a good life and to be functional, happy members of society,” Jeremy says.
“That’s what I really care about: building that relationship with the students. That's where my heart lies within education.”
In his personal life, Jeremy feels most at home when immersed in the natural environment. From time spent camping in Kosciuszko to fishing in the Murrumbidgee to a recent trip to explore parts of the Northern Territory, his personal values revolve around a deep connection to the natural environment. These values shine through in his teaching role, where he’s able to bring his authentic self to work every day.
“My life revolves around fishing, and I feel a really strong connection to native Australia. I’m all about sustainability and taking care of the natural landscape,” Jeremy says.
“A friend and I travelled to the Territory last year, spent time out bush and made a conscious effort to learn about all the Indigenous countries of the area and their ways of knowing.”
A career in education has provided Jeremy with the flexibility he needs to invest in his passions and the flexibility to follow his dreams.
In July, he will be moving to Northern NSW to teach at Induna School within Acmena Youth Justice Centre, in South Grafton. Jeremy has wanted to make a move to fit his lifestyle, and now that he’s finished his degree, he can do what he loves in both his personal and professional life.
“The student population at Induna is predominantly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, so hopefully they will have more to teach me. I like the idea of this job, and if it goes well, I'd love to continue doing it,” Jeremy says.
He’s very eager to begin embedding his learning from university into his own classroom and incorporate his passions into teaching in a way that resonates with students.
“I'm super passionate about incorporating Indigenous knowledge into teaching, and I think there should be much more of it,” Jeremy says.
“In Benny Wilson and David Spillman’s unit, ‘Ways of knowing being and doing’, we learned about “Engoori” – it’s a group agreement that the whole class comes up with together, with direction from the teacher,”
Instead of walking into a classroom with a list of rules that every person must abide by, it’s about each student telling their own story over the first few weeks of term. You learn a bit about each other – what might trigger somebody, or what might make someone upset, or what people need in an educational environment in order to maximise their learning.
“It's really effective in the classroom. I think it would take a lot of work to get it done, but I think that it would be great.”
Before he embarks on this next big step on his adventure, Jeremy has one item on his university to-do list – his graduation ceremony. Jeremy will be graduating in the Faculty of Education’s March ceremonies, just a day after his birthday, with all his family set to attend the occasion.
“I’m really lucky. I grew up in a beautiful family with two older sisters, and my mum and dad are awesome,” Jeremy says.
“My grandparents really value education, so this is an important moment for them. My whole immediate family are now university-educated, which has made my grandparents really proud.”
In reflecting on his journey to becoming a fully-fledged teacher, it’s the people he’s met – from whom he’s had the opportunity to learn from and grow – that have potentially made the biggest impact.
From his tutors at UC, to his mentor teacher on placement, to the principal at the first school he worked at, to his own peers, many of whom have even become close friends, Jeremy feels lucky that he’s had the chance to learn from, and work alongside, so many amazing people in the education industry.
This March, the University of Canberra congratulates the graduating class of 2023.
We are so glad to celebrate this milestone with you. You have overcome challenges with grace and resilience, and grown in remarkable ways.
Many of you are already making an impact in your chosen fields, and others have embarked on their postgraduate study path – we look forward to seeing what you achieve in these next steps in your amazing journeys.