Teacher's Voice: Full circle for Melaine Bubner - Education Matters Magazine
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Teacher’s Voice: Full circle for Melaine Bubner

Former hospitality professional turned teacher, Mrs Melaine Bubner, is combining her two passions as she takes on a new role at Hope Christian College in 2024.

When Mrs Melaine Bubner farewelled her Year 3 students at Hope Christian College in Craigmore, South Australia, at the end of 2023, it was for the last time.

This year, she is teaching Home Economics and Food and Hospitality to Hope’s students in Years 6 to 12, drawing on her wealth of experience in the hospitality industry.

She has been teaching at Hope Christian College since graduating with a Bachelor of Primary Education six years ago, at the age of 40.

“It wasn’t a problem for me coming in as a mature-age teacher. In fact, because I was a parent, I had that set of skills under my belt.”

“I did about six months of relief teaching in a few different schools after graduating and was then offered a contract for a year here – and never left,” she says.

While her path into teaching has been unconventional, the skills she acquired during her years in the hospitality profession have transferred into her second career as a teacher.

“When I finished school, I got into nursing, but I chose to do hospitality – which 30 years later, comes back into play. I worked in the hospitality industry for several years before becoming a stay-at-home mum for five years,” she says.

When her youngest child started kindergarten, a local school offered Mrs Bubner a dual role managing the uniform shop and providing Home Economics support, which morphed into an administration role, including establishing the school’s Parents and Friends Association.

“I was juggling four different hats at the school for several years. Then, at a staff breakfast one year, the teachers were talking about the need for help in their sister school in Papua New Guinea,” she recalls.

Mrs Bubner wanted to help – but they needed teachers, not support staff. Several conversations with her colleagues about her potential to train as a teacher soon followed.

“I was 35 at the time. I took some steps towards looking into what I’d have to do to become a teacher. I was nervous about the entry process to university and went down the pathway of Open Universities,” she says.

Mrs Bubner commenced a Bachelor of Primary Education part time, juggling two young children and her multiple roles at the local school, before completing the last two years full time.

She was offered several contracts when she graduated, ultimately accepting an offer from Hope Christian College, a co-ed Prep to Year 12 independent school.

“I initially applied for a Year 5 position, but it was offered to someone else. Six weeks later, they rang me back as another Year 5 position had become available – would I be interested? I said yes. I was very flexible. I think that is the key to teaching; being flexible in what you will do. I was prepared to go anywhere and do anything,” she says.

Expectations versus reality

No stranger to the school environment, Mrs Bubner completed a series of placements during her training, and worked as a relief teacher at several schools once qualified. Although she is familiar with the classroom, she knows teaching middle and senior school students will be different to greeting her class of eight-year-olds every day.

“High school is a very different space to primary school. Essentially, they’re two very different jobs – which I’m about to find out,” she says.

“I think when you do different roles in schools, you still don’t really appreciate what other roles are doing. You might chat over a coffee with other teachers, but unless you’re doing their specific role, you really don’t understand what it is.”

Despite her years of workplace experience – including in the pressure-cooker environment of corporate hospitality – she is not immune to feeling overwhelmed at times.

“Teaching is many, many balls in the air that you’re juggling. And occasionally, it gets overwhelming. The pressure is overwhelming at times. Some weeks all my ducks are in a row. And then other weeks, the ducks are running everywhere.”

Some people think teachers teach the same material year after year – but that is simply not true, she says.

“I’ve taught Year 3 for the last four years and we are constantly changing our program to make it better, more interesting, more relevant. Not one year has been a repeat of the year before.

“I get bored easily. I’m always challenging myself to the next thing. Teaching has never been boring,” she says.

Mrs Bubner’s former class wrote messages about their time with her as their teacher on the back of a collage they created. Image: Hope Christian College

Teaching Hospitality

Mrs Bubner is looking forward to sharing her enthusiasm for hospitality with her new student cohort.

“I have a passion for hospitality. It is definitely a specialised area. I studied at Regency Hotel School, a well-known hospitality school in Adelaide, and my first job after graduating was in a restaurant at Adelaide Zoo,” she says.

Mrs Bubner also completed a TAFE certificate in hospitality and worked at the Hyatt Adelaide (now called InterContinental Adelaide) and the Adelaide Convention Centre.

She hopes to impart some of the skills she acquired in corporate hospitality to her students at Hope Christian College.

“Not everyone is going to be a doctor or a lawyer, but everyone needs to cook and eat. I’m excited to teach everything from basic nutrition and healthy eating through to hospitality skills. Hospitality offers transferable skills; customer service and attention to detail, for example, can be transferred into any industry.”

Mrs Bubner recalls her own experience as a student at school, and the potential of teachers to influence students’ future career path.

“I changed schools halfway through year nine. I was part of a special music program at a public school, which cocooned us from the ‘wildness’ of the rest of the school, but my parents decided the school wasn’t a good fit for me,” she says.

“I got a music scholarship to go to Concordia College, which was at the opposite end of the socio-economic scale. It was chalk and cheese, compared to the public school. I did home economics all the way through Concordia College. There was a teacher there, Mrs James, who was very passionate about her cooking – she would probably be someone who did inspire my journey.”

Now acting in the role of ‘Mrs James’ to her own students, Mrs Bubner says students “do stuff” that regularly melt her heart. Last year, she was surprised to receive a collage from a class of former students.

“I had a handful of really difficult students who were making my life quite sad. That’s the reality of teaching. You can have excellent kids but it’s not always an easy journey,” she says.

“The teacher of a class I taught two years earlier must have mentioned to the students that I was having a bit of a hard time. The students coloured in this collage and stuck it all together, and they all wrote individual messages on the back, recalling memories of when I taught them.

“More recently, I got an email from a colleague, as one of my former students had written a paragraph about how I made her day when I smiled at her. That’s why we do this. We want kids to feel loved and supported, and like they’re worthy. Life is valuable, regardless of academic performance.”

Be That Teacher

Mrs Bubner is part of the ‘Be that teacher’ campaign, launched nationally in October 2023 to raise the status of the teaching profession across the country.

The campaign is a joint initiative of Federal and State and Territory Governments, and features eight real school teachers – one from each jurisdiction.

The campaign is designed to encourage more Australians to want to be ‘that’ teacher who helped them to aim higher, be braver and work harder.

Mrs Bubner is one of eight real teachers whose stories feature in the campaign which runs across social media, billboards, bus stops and other outdoor locations.

“Often the government is trying to target school-leavers to become teachers. But I can highly recommend targeting a more mature age group; people whose kids are now at school, and they’re looking for their next move,” she says.

“It wasn’t a problem for me coming in as a mature-age teacher. In fact, because I was a parent, I had that set of skills under my belt. I think that really adds to a teacher’s ability.”

To find out more, visit bethatteacher.gov.au.

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