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In the immortal words of Nobel Prize winner and author Malala Yousafzai, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” As we start to wind down for the year and, in the spirit of celebrating the transformative power of education, we are sharing some stories to celebrate the different ways schools and educators make a difference in the lives of their young charges. From Bhutan to the ‘burbs, teachers show up every day in all kinds of classrooms with all kinds of challenges to teach, deliver life lessons and so much more. This week on School Stream, we are sharing some feel-good stories that will warm the cockles of your heart. Teachers, we appreciate you. 

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1.   Taking school to the people – wherever they are

The United Nations classifies education as a human right and we’re all, especially children, intrinsically hard-wired for curiosity and learning. However, there are all sorts of barriers that can stand between a child and education, and things like natural disasters, energy shortages and geo-political strife can all pose challenges that feel insurmountable. You may have seen a version of this inspiring list of unusual schools from around the world that are the very embodiment of ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. Many of these schools are described as a ‘labour of love’ and are often founded by a single teacher with a whole lot of determination. We’re talking about schools at the top of mountains and deep in caves in China, floating schools in Bangladesh, an underground school in New Mexico, a very bohemian approach to education in Brooklyn, and schools just about everywhere else you can think of.

2.   A ’small but mighty’ school builds community

Like a lot of regional schools, Kongorong Primary School in South Australia is a much-loved part of its community and their annual ‘Farm Day’, now in its second year, builds on the solid connection between the community and the school while providing an incomparable applied learning experience at the same time. Farm Day gives students an opportunity to rear lamb or dairy calves by hand and learn from teachers, parents, and members of the local agriculture industry.

“It’s great to be able to pass on that knowledge and see them so excited to learn… It’s a great opportunity to invite others from around the region to our school so that they can see why we think it’s such a special place.” (Tania Webb, local dairy farmer and parent)

This brings us to the invaluable community building that occurs when schools have a strong connection with their community. It’s a key part of the strategy the school hopes will keep their doors open amid pressure from declining enrolments as families relocate to (regional hub) Mount Gambia.

“If we can run events like Farm Day and get the whole community supporting the school and students, we can hopefully build up numbers and encourage more parents to see the value in smaller, country schools,” (Tania Webb, local dairy farmer and parent)

You can learn more and see some, frankly, adorable photos from Farm Day on the ABC

3.   A ‘retired’ teacher in Bhutan

They say teaching is not just a job, but a vocation. This is certainly true for ‘retired’ teacher Barb Roberts. In 2015, a trip to a region called Tang Valley in Bhutan, also known as ‘Little Switzerland’, in 2015 has spurred her to make multiple return trips in the name of supporting teachers with training and resources.

“The children in Bhutan all aspire to finishing school and going on to tertiary studies. Most of them come from very small farms; the average farm is self-sufficient, so it’s a hard life. The kids will say, ‘I need to get a good education as I need to get a good job because farming is so hard in Bhutan’.” 

Since her first trip back in 2017, she has facilitated the donation of a tonne of books (yes, an actual tonne), developing a phonic program which was taught to 50 local teachers, and then overseeing its implementation.  There’s no plan to let up any time soon. Barb will be back in the mountain kingdom again next year, with plans to focus on library training and distributing resources to more schools across Bhutan. This time, she’s bringing two more ‘retired’ teachers with her! You know what they say: ‘Once a teacher, always a teacher!’ 

Click here to learn more about this story and explore photos from schools in Bhutan and daily life. 

4.   All teachers, everywhere. Thank you

The fact of the matter is, teachers everywhere show up to go above and beyond for their students every damn day. There are few professions that have the same magnitude of influence and impact as teachers – they touch on almost every aspect of the community. We don’t have to tell you about the insurmountable workload, the heroic levels of patience required and the bureaucracy. You already know. What we would like you to know, however, is how grateful your communities are for everything you do. Thank you.

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