Coleen Cole always dreamt of being a teacher, but life took her in another direction.

Now nearly 20 years later, she is studying to make her dream a reality.

“I wanted to be a teacher ever since I left university the first time round, but it wasn’t until nearly 20 years later I found I had time and circumstances in my life to actually study again.

“The Master of Teaching program was attractive because I could go in without having any other degrees in Education or teaching.

“My Bachelors degrees were in science, and the Masters just allowed me to get straight into teaching without doing another Bachelors.”

Coleen is studying part-time while caring for her small child and working part-time.

Online learning was new to me, but once I got used to the UTAS system of learning, it’s been great. The online learning allows you a flexible learning pattern.

“My work schedule and my life schedule is such that I can’t get to uni in a regular basis, so working from home suits me."

I was looking at other online options, but UTAS offered a really flexible program and I was very interested in the units as they were described. I also knew people who were either staff, or had been students, and they gave it good reviews.

“The degree is really focused on-and it sounds obvious- how to teach and how kids learn, rather than just the subject matter. I found that really interesting.

“It’s been eye-opening to really understand how complex teaching is.”

Coleen has been passionate about helping others understand maths ever since she was a young student herself.

“When I was at school and university, I enjoyed and connected with maths and science, and that’s what I’m specialising in. I remember having friends who didn’t, who labelled themselves ‘not good at maths,’ so they would just give up.

I really enjoyed helping my friends understand maths in a different way, or in a context that they could understand, taking into consideration whether they thought in words or pictures, not in numbers. That was a challenge, and I enjoyed that.

“When I went to a college after school, I had a maths teacher who taught maths in about four or five different ways until everybody got it. I also got encouragement from that.

“Even those that are not becoming mathematicians have the opportunity to ‘get’ maths. They don’t have to write it off, they can see maths and science in the world around them and appreciate it.”

Coleen said the Masters teaching placements are “invaluable” preparation for the profession.

“While I’m on placement, I’m really trying new things I’ve learnt from the course. It’s a really supportive environment to test out some skills, and a supportive environment to prepare for teaching.

The things that have stood out include the teaching staff at UTAS and how prepared they are. The units that they’ve put together, particularly for online learning, have been really thorough. All the resources are there and available. And they’re also available themselves on a regular basis, almost every day, to answer questions.

“You may need to make arrangements to find the time to study, but it’s entirely possible.

“It would be great if I could get most students in the classroom engaging with maths and science, giving it a go and not being fearful of it. I think some students turn off maths really early.

I’d like to be able to turn that around and show them it’s not boring. I think that would be success, if I could convince the students that it’s worth giving it a go and worth trying.

And while Coleen finds the thought of her first day as a fully-fledged teacher “a little nerve-wracking to begin with,” she is definitely looking forward to it.

“I will feel like I achieved something, and all the work and study has been worth it. It’s a bit of a cliché, but some say that’s when the learning starts, that first day you stand up in front of a class.

I think that teaching in particular is a profession that benefits from having some life experience. Having a variety of different jobs or raising a family can prepare you well for relating to students, putting a real world context into the classroom. If anyone wants to do it, they should look into making it possible.