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Category: Peeps at BAC

Submitted by on Sun 13/09/15 12:34

Sarah Rutkowski and Kellie Benard are young female teachers on the secondary campus of BAC. They’ve also become great friends.
This is Sarah’s fourth year of teaching at Brisbane Adventist College. She specialises in English, Bible and Science, and is one of two Year 7 teachers. Sarah and her co-teacher Jodie Greene provide a structured transitional year to secondary school for the Year 7 students.
Kellie has been teaching for five and a half years and this is her fourth year at BAC. She specialises in English and Religion & Ethics and teaches students from Years 8-12. Kellie says it took her a while to decide whether she really wanted to teach or not. Her mother is also a teacher, so she has a good teaching pedigree, but she wanted to explore her options. Now, she knows she has found her calling.
Kellie: I love that every day is different, that I get to build relationships and ‘do life’ with other people. I love watching kids grow up. I love watching them reach their potential. I love seeing them try new things and push boundaries and learn and live and grow. When they’re getting all this information from all these different sources, and hearing all these voices about what they should do and who they should be, I get to be one of those voices that shape and guide and influence. It’s a cool thing when kids let you into their life and their world.
Sarah: Every day is so different and fun. There are days when it’s exhausting, but all it takes is for one child to have that lightbulb moment and it just makes your day! Because I predominantly teach Year 7 (and I have for most of my teaching career), seeing them grow up from a Primary mindset to a Secondary one, and seeing them develop in their character, is just fascinating.
There are so many different aspects to teaching. You’re in the classroom and you’re out on camps and you’re up against the kids in a dodgeball game or a paintball fight…. You know, it’s just fun! It’s so much fun! Being involved in extracurricular activities is definitely rewarding because the kids see you as a human being [laughs]. Often, in camps and sports, kids are pushed out of their comfort zone and your role is to be there to support them. They get to see you in a very different light – and because you’re spending time with them, they know you.
Kellie: It’s unlikely that the kids are going to remember your lesson. Well, you would hope they might remember that brilliant lesson you taught on masculinity and femininity in Pride and Prejudice! But it’s unlikely! They’re going to remember the camps, they’re going to remember when they were broken and battered on The Kokoda Challenge, they’re going to remember the out-of-school, fun things. Doing that, helps you build relationships that then transfer back into the classroom. You know them better. You have an insight into how they learn. You know what they like. And they learn about you, too. They know who you are as a person and that you don’t actually sleep under your desk in a box and mark drafts all day!
Sarah: I think if your lessons aren’t interesting or engaging, if you’re not connecting with the kids, the classroom just makes for a really boring space. Obviously, there is a time and place for what’s appropriate, but if you can feel an energy in the room it makes a massive difference. I know that if I’m going to be here, I definitely want to enjoy it! If I’m enjoying it, that transfers to the kids. When they see that, they start enjoying it… and it goes from there.
Kellie: For me, it’s more about the fact that I know they’re smart. They’re really switched on and know when you’re being real with them. They know if you care about them and if you care about your subject. So when those times come and you’re doing a more structured lesson, if you’re passionate about your topic, that’s going to contribute to the culture and the energy of your class. Hopefully, it will also spill over into how they learn. They respond to your authenticity. 
Sarah and Kellie’s enthusiasm for the College, and ‘people’ generally, spilled out in a display of mateship (and endurance) this past July. The Kokoda Challenge is a yearly team trail-walking event run by Kokoda Youth Foundation. Participants raise funds as part of the challenge, for youth programs in Southeast Queensland and Northern NSW. The training and teamwork required to successfully complete the 96 km or 48 km courses within 39 hours, gives schools a chance to foster school spirit, physical fitness, environmental appreciation, and personal and social development generally.
This year, there were four BAC teams competing in The Kokoda Challenge. One senior team competed in the gruelling 96km Stan Bisset Cup, and other three teams competed in the 48km Jim Stillman Cup on courses crisscrossing the rugged Gold Coast hinterland. 
Sarah and Kellie have been involved with this event for several years as support crew, but this year they wanted to fill a different role. “We always thought that just going out, sitting around and waiting for our teams to come into the checkpoints was a bit boring and not really using our resources efficiently. So we decided, well let’s go and see everyone – not just our own teams, but all the teams. We’ll get out on the track and cheer and so on,” says Sarah.
Hence, the ‘Let’s Get Peppy’ squad came into existence as the unofficial Kokoda Challenge feel-good, lolly-and-xylophone-wielding, random-stranger cheerer-uppers! Getting very little sleep over the 39 hour period, and heading out to every checkpoint they could access and piece of track that intersected a road or friend’s property, they took it upon themselves to be bring joy and enthusiasm to the flagging competitors who were weary, hungry, blistered, cold and feeling like they would never arrive at the finish line!
Kellie: It was just a way of chatting to people. We might give an extra little cheer for our own team, but we tried to be just as excited for the others that came through.
Sarah: We yelled and screamed and lost our voices. What they’re doing out there is MASSIVE, so if we can cheer and make them smile, that’s great. We took lollies and signs, a ukulele and a xylophone. We’d make up tunes and take special requests. We’d give high fives and hugs. You name it, we did it!
Kellie: We got such a cool, positive response from everybody. They’d be coming in and saying: “We could hear you cheering for like, 2 k, and we just wanted to get to the cheering.”
Sarah: They’d get to us and be expecting a big group but there’d only be the four of us and they’re like: “Huh? Where’s everyone else?” 
They certainly made an impact with competitors and Kokoda Youth Foundation. The KYF Facebook page was flooded with questions and comments about them. One competitor said: “It was one of the most welcome sights … The level of enthusiasm sort of acted like a Red Bull, immediately lifting you and quickening your pace, even managing to pull a smile from your face.”
Kokoda Youth Foundation’s social media officer Rachael Charles says: “Their enthusiasm was absolutely infectious. Competitors coming around the bend were greeted with roars of encouragement, banging on musical instruments and waving colourful signs. It didn’t matter that the competitors were strangers – they treated all who came past as if they were family. It really seemed to lift their spirits and morale.”
Why is encouragement so integral to what you do?
Sarah: I guess we could just rock up, teach our classes and do a 9 to 5 job, but the best thing about BAC is that it has this community component to it…. School spirit goes hand in hand with that. We have each other’s back, we support each other.
Kellie: We’re all in this together. For instance, what the Kokoda kids are doing is amazing, amazing, amazing, and the cool thing about being a teacher is being able to cheer them on in life. Acknowledging that their experience is tough and we know what it takes…. We want to be there. Even if it takes playing a xylophone tune to them… 
2016 UPDATE: Sarah is going to be a mum very soon and has taken some time off to enjoy her first child. Congratulations, Sarah and Martin! 

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