A promising young Melbourne teacher working in a remote Indigenous school credits an innovative Victoria University program for her success in being named a Northern Territory teacher of the year.
Sarah Mullucks, 28, received the Katherine region award for primary teaching from the NT Department of Education for her work at Wugularr School, about 120 kilometres south-east of Katherine.
Overcoming the challenges of isolation, extreme weather and a new culture since arriving in 2012, Sarah is now the longest-serving teacher at the 80-student school, where she starts a typical day at 6.30am to avoid glaring sun and water buffalo on the road.
While most teachers in remote NT schools stay less than a year, Sarah credits her longevity at Wugularr to VU’s SWIRL program – Story-Writing in Remote Locations – introduced more than 20 years ago by College of Education lecturer Lawry Mahon.
The annual program provides rewarding four-week placements for pre-service teachers to work at remote schools and help Indigenous children create story books inspired by their own experiences and cultures.
An unintended consequence of SWIRL – in which hundreds of VU students have now participated – is that many ‘SWIRLERS’ return to remote communities as Northern Territory teachers once they graduate, and stay much longer than most outback teachers.
Sarah participated in SWIRL in fourth year of her Bachelor of Education at Jilkminggan School near Mataranka, also in the Katherine region. She extended her placement from four to 10 weeks because she was “just starting to get into it.”
“The network of SWIRLERS in remote schools in the Northern Territory is growing – in fact three teachers in the area are from the program,” she said.
In just three years teaching in a multi-year classroom of 20 upper-primary children, Sarah has led a school numeracy and literacy program, helped establish a food garden, built community relationships through regular home visits, and introduced netball to a place where children knew only basketball and football.
She plans to return to Wugularr for a fourth year in 2015, and is taking it year by year.
“I have plans for next year that include extending our netball league. Even though our girls had never played before and the first games were really funny, they ended up getting into the grand final for the whole region.”
Sarah is available for comment. She is from Tarneit in Melbourne’s west. A photo of Sarah is available.
VU Media Contact:
Ann Marie Angebrandt, Media Producer
Marketing and Advancement, Victoria University
Phone: (03) 9919 5487