Meet the team: Jo

Hi. My name’s Jo and I am the Group 1 classroom teacher at the Royal Far West School. I teach students aged between 3.5 to 6 years.

The history of the Royal Far West School

Royal Far West has always encouraged education for children and the school has a wonderful history. Initially, it started with a teacher from Manly Infants’ School as far back as 1930. The school was then formally opened on 3 August 1938. During the early history of Royal Far West, children being treated for polio were there for months at a time.  Therefore, an integrated school was necessary for children to continue their studies during their stay and over time the school evolved and grew to meet the ever-changing needs of the children we support today. In 1958, the school moved into a new three-storey building where it stayed until the end of last year. We moved into the new purpose built Centre for Country Kids in 2018– a now truly integrated offer that brings together our health and education services.

What makes the Royal Far West School unique?

Royal Far West School (RFWS) is a totally unique school; there is no other like it! We are a nurturing and caring team at RFWS. The cohort changes every week with the enrolment of a new and diverse range of students with a variety of needs that cannot be addressed locally. We enrol both clients of RFW and their siblings from a variety of rural and remote communities. Not all children who come to RFW have had positive experiences at school. They may have difficulty communicating with their peers and school may be a challenging place for them. As part of their stay, we partner and work closely with the specialised paediatric health team to support and encourage them as they receive the help they need. We try to turn those impressions and experiences around so school is not necessarily associated with challenges.

The school has four class groups and children are placed into their classes depending upon their age.

What led you to work at Royal Far West?

I am a passionate Early Education teacher with a background in Special Education and felt this was a perfect fit. It is – I’ve been here for eight years!

Describe your typical day…

My days are full of fun and games and personal interactions with the students. We share quality literature and engage in group play, mixed with highly scaffolded teaching moments, where I break up a learning experience into discrete parts and give the students the assistance they need to learn each part. Interactive social skills such as turn taking and sharing are always high on the agenda!

I encourage everyone to discover through play in our creative learning environment. Our activities include sandpit play, cooking, drawing, puppet shows, creative and imaginative play in the kitchen, dressing up, meditation and yoga.

Eating times (fruit break and lunch) present an opportunity to model acceptable table manners, initiate conversation and social interaction  as well as encouraging healthy eating habits.

Most important is my observation of the students so that I can report and contribute to the overall picture of each child to assist RFW clinicians with diagnosis and care plans.

What’s the best thing about working with families from rural and remote Australia?

I love supporting the children and families through their week away from home by helping the students to feel welcome and safe so they can enjoy play–based learning in our beautiful classroom.

It is so rewarding to observe how students have responded to the intervention, when they return a few months later for further care. It’s a joy to see their progress and desire to learn. They beam with happiness when they return to the Group 1 classroom for more fun!