“If you’re serious about education, you seriously need to be enrolled in this course”
By Serpil Senelmis
Christine Bellert is an English Coach at St Agatha’s Catholic primary school in Cranbourne. Despite a tumultuous time in her personal life, the 57-year-old has had an insatiable “desire to keep learning.”
In 2012, Mrs Bellert’s world was turned upside down when her son Michael suffered three strokes after an erupted brain aneurysm. At the time Michael and his wife had only just announced they were pregnant with twins. It was a difficult time for the whole family, explains Mrs Bellert.
“His beautiful wife also suffers from Juvenile Parkinson’s and they felt this would be the biggest challenge in their lives.”
For the mother of five children, nine grandchildren, and wife to husband David, the knock-on effect of such heartbreak continued for quite some time, eventually taking its toll on Mrs Bellert’s career.
“I continued to work as a principal the following year, however by the end of that year I needed to resign my position.”
Fast forward six years, and things are looking much brighter. Mrs Bellert says she’s hopeful about her son’s progress and the future of her grandchildren.
“Thankfully he continues to make slow steps forward, though still non-verbal. And the beautiful twins are at kinder this year and continue to bring much joy to life!”
Mrs Bellert initially dipped her toes back into working life as a classroom teacher and three years later has taken on a new leadership role.
“I am again in a leadership position at a Catholic primary school. My main role is English Coach and I get to work with all staff and students to help improve practice.”
Mrs Bellert’s new role has also reignited her passion for lifelong learning. She has completed a variety of different courses over the years, including three post-graduate courses. Her most recent undertaking is the Master of Clinical Teaching at the University of Melbourne which she says, “helps with (her) role and the course enables (her) to use what she’s learning, straight away into (her) practice.”
“Education continually changes, and we need to be on the cutting-edge for our students – the University of Melbourne has provided us with a vehicle through this course.”
Already every unit has enabled me to assist staff and students with making improvements in their learning and teaching. This course allows me to lead myself and school staff towards the best evidence-based practice for our students.
While Mrs Bellert continues to be a major force in her own children’s lives – with two of her adult children continuing to live with her – she is also elated by the idea of being able to positively shape other children’s progress through education.
“As English Coach I was able to use my learning to support small groups of students, as well as individual students, and I’ve been able to share some wonderful insights and readings which I acquired during the course. We are fortunate to have a few of us from our school participating in this course. With our school mantra being – 100 percent of the students, 100 percent of the time – sharing our knowledge from the Master of Clinical Teaching course enables us to work toward this goal efficiently and effectively.”
“My favourite part of this course has been watching some of our students change from being reluctant writers to being enthusiastic writers! This was part of one of the units which taught us to make explicit rubrics after identifying the zone of proximal development. This example was one of many where we get to connect the course, with our practice. Each unit enhances your knowledge and your practise where so many other courses are more about head knowledge,” she adds.
For the enthusiastic mature-aged student who leads a “very fast-paced” life, the online mode of study has also been a breath of fresh air. Mrs Bellert says, “Without this option I could never have taken part.”
“I work full-time, I’m a mother of five adult children and a grandmother to nine and have my own social life. The online module allows me to work around all these important aspects of my life. I may complain when I’m doing assignments late at night or early in the morning, but I’m also grateful as I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise. In the past, my postgraduate courses meant I had to attend university. Thankfully university courses have moved with the times.”
The online learning environment has been so popular with Mrs Bellert and her colleagues that they “are even looking at modelling some aspects of online learning for communication with staff.”
“One of the benefits of the online course is I can interact with my colleagues and learn from them. The discussion board and webinars have helped us to get to know each other as well as learn from each other. I really enjoyed meeting up with one of my online colleagues at a recent professional learning day. It was good to be able to chat over coffee about our learning and the assignments.”
The quality of online learning is fantastic! I have read some great articles, watched excellent videos, participated in rich webinars as well as added to my personal library with some excellent and pertinent books.
While no stranger to being challenged, Mrs Bellert explains that committing to an online masters degree has required great effort.
“I often bemoan not being able to learn without being assessed but I know my learning is better and more influential due to the work required in the assignments. You do need to dig deep and have the expertise from the prescribed readings to back up any premise, but this has opened up a world of learning which I would never have known about or been able to access without the University of Melbourne.”
What has surprised Mrs Bellert about her journey as an online student is her exchanges with the academics which she describes as humbling.
“My interactions with the academics from the University of Melbourne has humbled me. Each one of them has been so generous with their time, to ensure I have the best opportunity to learn. At one time I left the course as I couldn’t catch up with time-off during one of the units. Instead of accepting my resignation Dr Rice encouraged me to continue and then worked with me to ensure I made all the necessary connections to again take up my position. I cannot believe someone of her calibre spent so much time making sure I continued my course.”
“This was not an isolated incident. After one unit, one of my teaching experts agreed to come and visit our school to look at the ways we were implementing some of the knowledge we had learnt during her unit. I simply cannot praise them enough in their knowledge, dedication and support,” she adds.
The overall support from the University of Melbourne throughout her student experience has been exceptional states Mrs Bellert.
“The University always provides excellent staff, support and resources. I have also been very impressed with the quick replies to any emails or phone calls.”
Mrs Bellert says she’s now become a champion of the Master of Clinical Teaching course and has “often been able to encourage others to do this course.”
“I am often speaking about how this is the best course I have ever done! As I’m older and have completed a variety of different courses, people know I speak from experience. If anyone wants to help students learn effectively, wants to improve their teaching practice or wants to improve their learning outcomes, then they need to do this course.”
“If you’re serious about education, you seriously need to be enrolled in this masters course,” adds Mrs Bellert.