Having been a student at Oakleigh Grammar from ELC through to VCE, it is clear that Gina’s school journey has shaped the person she is today. There’s no doubt her time at Oakleigh Grammar and the teachers she was surrounded by significantly influenced her decision to do teaching. However, this was not always Gina’s pathway as she initially began a Bachelor of Laws after graduating from School in 2013. Although having completed this undergraduate degree, she decided her heart was not set on this career path. After discovering where her values truly aligned, Gina decided to make the bold move and apply her passions to becoming a teacher, and has since come back to Oakleigh Grammar to complete her placements. Gina has kindly offered to share some insight into her experience at Oakleigh Grammar, her transition to from law to teaching, and some advice for those who may also be thinking about making a change in their degree.
What is your most memorable moment from your time as an Oakleigh Grammar student?
There are definitely too many to choose from! The Class of 2013 was fortunate enough to be a tight-knit cohort – like family – making even the smallest of classroom experiences memorable. If I had to narrow it down to just one moment, it would be our Year 12 Valedictory Dinner. A majority of our year level attended Oakleigh Grammar since Primary School – and even ELC – whereby reflecting on the years of memories that we created, as well as those within our final year, made for a meaningful close as we entered the next chapter of our lives.
Do you keep in touch with other Oakleigh Grammar Alumni?
My two nearest and dearest friends, Victoria Keramidopoulos and Vasili Dimitriu are Oakleigh Grammar Alumni from the Class of 2013. They are both highly successful in their respective fields – being Physiotherapy and Radiography. We are so fortunate to have grown up and experienced all that life brings us together. I couldn’t be prouder of them!
How has an Oakleigh Grammar education contributed to your success?
The ‘family’ orientation I mentioned earlier extends beyond the students, and includes the teachers and staff as well. Through these quality relationships, there is a strong support system at Oakleigh Grammar – allowing success to naturally flourish! Specifically, the knowledge, care and insights of my Year 12 teachers created a solid foundation, as well as a smooth transition into university life.
What did you do in the year immediately after graduating? Did you take a gap year, or did you go straight to university?
Quite conventionally, I went straight to university and studied a Bachelor of Laws. Whether students take a gap year (or half-year) or go straight to university, I believe that there are benefits to both pathways, as they each bring a realm of learnings.
Why did you decide to study to become a teacher?
There was always a part of me that wanted to be a teacher – as I grew older, my values and life ambitions became more and more aligned with the teaching profession. I wanted a career where I could continually make a genuine change to the lives of individuals. As teachers have a significant influence on the development, success and overall trajectory of their students, I am content that it is the profession for me. Throughout my placements, I have found it to be truly rewarding – I am so grateful to have found my passion.
What made you decide to come back to Oakleigh Grammar to complete your student teaching? How are you finding being a student teacher where you went to school yourself?
There are two prevalent reasons why I decided to reach out to Oakleigh Grammar and complete my placements here. Firstly, to be the best – you have to learn from the best! Mr Andrew Phillips, who was my VCE Business Management teacher, and is now my mentor, has been a significant contributing factor to my success within Year 12 and university. From this, I have remembered his teaching style and attributes, and aspire to model these qualities into my own teaching. In addition, I knew that the expertise of Oakleigh Grammar’s teachers would provide me with an invaluable practicum experience and depth of teaching knowledge. Secondly, as I attended Oakleigh Grammar since ELC, I wanted to ‘give back’ to the school and teachers that helped shape me as the person I am today.
Being on the opposite end of the classroom has been incredibly surreal! It took some adjusting to even call my past teachers by their first names. To be teaching students in the same classroom where I was taught the same subjects and in the same uniform (even in the same chair) initially felt both bizzare and familiar. I believe, however, it has aided my teaching and relatability as my anecdotes and experiences mirror their environment.
What activities (sports, clubs, etc.) were you active in while in school that helped you decide what you want to do as your career?
During my High School years, I was a member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) – I found through representing and advocating for the needs and interests of others, It aided my decision to study law. I also participated in the Greek Games in Year 12, and very much believe that sports help develop soft skills such as teamwork and communication. I would highly recommend for current students to engage in as many school-related activities and roles as they can. It not only shapes skills and interests relevant to their future careers, but is an excellent opportunity to build achievements for an appealing resume – as they transition into post-schooling life.
What do you consider the most essential skills are for becoming a teacher?
Throughout my placements, it becomes more and more evident that teachers are masters at juggling many essential qualities! As ‘umbrella’ qualities, I would say that teachers should exhibit care and passion. Caring teachers foster the development of genuine relationships with students, which ultimately allows for the individual needs of learners to be attended to – and acts as a cornerstone to creating a safe, positive and empowering learning environment. Through an active passion for teaching, students are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their learning, which inherently aids student success. Similarly, teachers take the form of many roles within the classroom – where through having a passion for these roles, it allows teachers to consistently strive for best practice, and ultimately, motivate students to reach their highest potential.
Finally, do you have any advice you would like to share for someone who may be thinking about changing their degree like you did?
With the benefit of hindsight, I would advise that if you are thinking of changing career paths – absolutely go for it! The conventional pathway of going to university, graduating and landing a forever job (although common) is not necessarily the path that occurs for everyone, and that is completely fine. It took numerous internships, and having to complete an entire undergraduate degree to reach a definitive decision of what I truly wanted to do. Although initially I felt as if it was ‘time in-efficient’, I can confidently say now that the experience taught me the knowledge, skills and dispositions to shape my future success as a teacher. I would encourage those who are thinking of changing paths to immerse yourself in your chosen industry as much as possible, network with professionals, and consider all study options that are your best suit.