Canberra teacher Sam Davies is the first to admit he was a “disaster of a student” to his teachers when he started high school.
“But I was always told it was a dumb thing to do, not that I was a dumb person,” he said.
That respect and encouragement from his educators changed his trajectory, and by Year 10 he was a school captain.
Now the Lake Ginninderra College teacher is the ACT’s face of the Be That Teacher campaign, a $10 million jointly funded push by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to encourage more people to choose a career in teaching.
The campaign, running until April 2024, will be featured on billboards, train stations, bus stops and social media across the country in an attempt to inspire more people to become a teacher.
Mr Davies acknowledged that while the work can be hard, it was also incredibly rewarding, and society needed to get rid of the perception that “it’s crazy to be a teacher”.
“Every single day you make a difference to real people who matter, and who sometimes rely on you, and it’s an incredibly privileged position to be able to have that impact on young people,” he said.
“Every single day we make the world a better place, one small act at a time.”
Lake Ginninderra College’s Ewen McMahon is one student who wants to be a teacher once he finishes school.
The 17-year-old said the impact Mr Davies has had on his life had been huge.
“I only get to see him for three hours and 40 minutes a week, but it’s a really important three hours and 40 minutes for me,” Ewen said.
“I think it’s really important for teachers to be recognised for what they do, because for a lot of students they might see their teachers more than they see their own parents or families, so the impact that those teachers have on those kids is just monumental.”
Ewen said he wanted to inspire the next generation and hoped this campaign would encourage even more students to consider the profession.
“I think it’s really important for people my age or older to see [the campaign] and understand that teaching isn’t just a job, it’s something that can change people’s lives,” he said.
There’s a teacher shortage across Australia and the ACT is no exception.
ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said there were about 70 positions vacant in the ACT at the moment, however half have been filled with permanent jobs.
“This year, I think, has been a particularly difficult year with COVID’s long tail, flu, we’ve now got hayfever, pollen is really impacting on teachers’ health as well,” she said.
“People are getting unwell and we don’t have the teachers to fill those positions.”
Ms Berry hoped the campaign would also lead to more teachers choosing Canberra as the place to embark on their careers.
“We all have that memory of that one teacher who inspired us to push ourselves that little bit, to broaden our horizons, and to really take that chance to make ourselves the best that we possibly can be,” she said.
“[We] want more teachers, not just ‘for the sake of it’, but because people really want to make that impact and make that change to young people’s lives.”
Ultimately, Mr Davies emphasised that while there may be some difficult aspects to teaching, the rewards were well worth it.
“I love being a teacher, teaching is one of the most rewarding professions I think you could consider doing,” he said.
“Every single day you have an opportunity to make a difference – a real, lasting, positive difference in the lives of young people.”