Shane Woon | Cohort 3 Associate | Hometown: Melbourne VIC
Bachelor of Science | Bachelor of Fine Arts
Head of Drama | Koo Wee Rup Secondary College
Shane Woon is a valued member of the teaching staff at Koo Wee Rup Secondary College in outer Melbourne, having transformed the school’s drama department and led the initiative to establish a regional performing arts academy. Four years ago, all that seemed unlikely.
“When I first got placed here, I was very apprehensive about actually following through with the program,” says Shane, who admits to feeling the stress of combining classroom teaching with the study component of the Teach For Australia program. Relocating from the inner city to an outer metropolitan for his teaching placement was also a challenge.
Prior to joining Teach For Australia as an Associate, Shane had worked as the director of the Melbourne University VCE Summer School, designed to give disadvantaged students a head start with the VCE. This experience exposed him to the gap in education equity. He believed that Teach For Australia was the best way to equip him with the skills to contribute to closing that gap.
“Through meeting the students at the summer school I realised that there was actually a big gap – both a knowledge gap and an expectation gap,” he says.
“There are kids that have huge potential but for various reasons don’t believe that they can achieve. I became aware of an issue with the education system that’s letting them down.”
Shane believed strongly in the power of mentoring students, however the reality of teaching every day was more challenging. Shane acknowledges the Teach For Australia network of Associates for giving him much-needed support to continue in the classroom.
“One of the real strengths of this program is that sense of collegiality with each other. We support each other and give each other resources. We’ll always have that network, not just from our own cohort but also from across cohorts,” says Shane.
He also credits the program’s mentoring initiative with providing him with strategies and goals to excel at teaching.
“I had a great mentor in my second year and she gave me advice about sticking around,” says Shane.
The Teach For Australia mentor was matched to Shane’s interest in the arts and offered daily support, observation and feedback and assisted him with planning and classroom delivery.
“My leadership skills were developed through the Teach For Australia mentoring, especially those sessions about planning and getting people to buy into your vision.”
Now in his fourth year of a journey that has shaped him into the teacher he aspired to be, Shane is determined to continue teaching. Staying at the school after his Teach For Australia placement ended meant he was able to see the ongoing results of the drama program he implemented. He is also proud to have been part of the journey of his students.
“My Year 7 students are in Year 10 now and it’s really interesting to see who they are now as young adolescents. I also taught some of the Year 12s when they were in Year 9 and it’s been amazing to see them grow as people.”