My name is Grace Bittner, I am nineteen years old. I’m from country South Australia and was lucky enough to have the privilege of working with RAISEducation and seeing the influence this wonderful program has on the kids living out bush.
I grew up on a cattle property in the south-east of South Australia with my two siblings and parents. I was fortunate enough to have a positive experience with education throughout both my primary and secondary years at the local schools. Outside of school I enjoyed, reading, riding horses and spending time with my friends. Through mutual friends and a little bit of fate, I was able to secure a job as a governess at Umbearra Station in the Northern Territory, for my gap year after completing Year 12. A little over 25 years ago my mother had worked for the same family on the same station when she was a similar age to me, however, as a station hand rather than a governess. Right from the first days at Umbearra, my time in the schoolroom was wonderful and the experience will be something that I will cherish forever. It completely changed my future plans and opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.
I worked with the two most beautiful kids, Ollie and Millie, in the Umbearra School room, plus their little sister Aubrey who would appear in the schoolroom when she managed to sneak her way in! The children thrived off learning and their creativity and large personalities flourished in the schoolroom, generating the most alive and energetic atmosphere. Ollie had been introduced to the RAISEducation program the previous year, however, this was a new learning experience for both Millie and myself. RAISEducation came to me as something I had never heard of before, but it was a program that promised change and results. The significant influence that both the founder, Kylie, and her program would have on the Umbearra Schoolroom, and my own personal journey, was astounding!
Both Mille and Ollie’s school routine involved a smooth mix of ASSOA work and RAISEducation activities. Kylie’s individualised daily activities for each student allowed the perfect balance in a school day as it was flexible enough to make slight adjustments to suit each student, however, structured enough to keep the student engaged and focused. The literacy and numeracy programs attention to detail as well as its simple yet effective structure allowed the school environment to be a positive and productive environment. Ollie and Millie found confidence through RAISEducation which had been something they struggled with in the classroom due to the lack of normality with their education. Remote education doesn’t provide a natural learning environment, however, RAISE offered them opportunities they hadn’t had before. It made them realise their full potential and that education is meant to be uplifting, challenging, and exciting. This realisation was incredible to witness and was something I’ve never experienced before. The fact that children living in remote locations miss out on so much due to their location is heart breaking. I will never forget the first time I saw my three students playing with other kids their own age at my first in-school event. It was the first time they had seen their school friends since the previous year and we were at the end of the first term! This was their reality and it was very confronting to see.
Since meeting Kylie, being involved in RAISEducation, and meeting the McKay family, it is no exaggeration to say my life and future direction has completely changed. Since the start of year 12, my plan was to try and achieve the highest ATAR score possible to keep my options open and possibly study Veterinary Science after my gap year up North. However, Umbearra Station and RAISEducation turned those plans on their head! Umbearra opened my eyes to teaching and the opportunities a pathway in education can offer. I’ve always loved working with kids, however, I didn’t have a strong desire to become a teacher. RAISE showed me that not all teaching is the stereotypical role of standing in front of a classroom with 30+ kids. I’ve now learnt that education comes in a range of shapes and sizes, and with the right support and structure, it can be a positive experience for all. Education can be inclusive and RAISEducation showed me how educators can bring the best out of every student. I loved seeing that not all education is a one size fits all approach and this opened my eyes to the possibilities of a career in teaching.
At the end of the gap year at Umbearra Station, I had an offer for Vet Science which was my year 12 goal! After all the study and hard work in my last years of school, I had achieved a place in the university degree I had hoped for, but something was amiss. As someone who always trusts their gut instincts, I knew if I didn’t listen to it, I would regret it. I rejected the Vet Science offer, something I never thought I would do! Even though I thought I was quite clear about my next steps, I found myself applying to Flinders University to study Inclusive and Specialised Education. I now find myself sitting in my Flinders room, writing out my first assignment for Special and Inclusive Education, and I am absolutely loving it. This is where I am meant to be and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I owe so much to my Umbearra Station family and Kylie from RAISEducation who opened my eyes to the opportunities in education and helped me find my passion.
To anyone who is considering working with RAISEducation, I would tell them not to hesitate. It will be the best decision you’ll make for your schoolroom and you’ll get so much out of the program. RAISEducation changed my life and I know it can change yours too!
Thanks for listening!
Former Umbearra Station Governess