The benefits of upskilling: Kathy’s story

Postgrad studies in Australia can be the key to landing your dream job. Just ask Charles Sturt student Kathy Talbot from Canberra. The teacher librarian exudes enthusiasm when she talks about her job. How did Kathy end up in a career she loves so much? She upskilled through postgraduate studies. Here’s her story.

Every day I love going into work. It is so dynamic, different and just fun to be a teacher librarian. I am very lucky to be able to do what I love every day.

Kathy’s journey into teacher librarianship

Kathy Talbot portrait

Kathy has been a teacher for almost 20 years. She graduated with a Bachelor of Education (Primary) and has taught students from Preschool through to Year 10. She describes her upskilling journey into teacher librarianship as an ‘an unexpected one’. It’s clearly one she relishes.

“I was teaching a Year 5 class part-time when my principal asked if I would like to work in the library – common practice for part-time primary teachers. I decided to give it a go as I would be working with a very dear friend, who became my teacher librarian mentor.

“As the school grew, I became the main ‘teacher in library’, teaching the Preschool to Year 6 release lessons.

“This was a very unique library as it was part of a joint facility, accessible to two schools – the Catholic school I was working in and a government school.

“I worked closely with the teacher librarian from the government school to further develop my skills as a teacher in library. I also worked hard with my own school to put into practice what I was learning.

“This involved building collaborative practices with staff to assist them in developing well-resourced units of inquiry for their classes, then supporting these themes in library lessons.”

Why Kathy pursued the benefits of upskilling

After several years in the role, Kathy could clearly see the value of a trained teacher librarian in a school library. She had considered further study earlier, but had been worried about the impact it might have on her young family.

“I applied for a teacher librarian position and was interviewed but not offered the role – because I didn’t have the qualification.

“Not winning the position showed me how much I wanted to pursue a career in teacher librarianship. I also realised I wanted to return to a high school setting, where I had spent eight years in my early career.”

Kathy decided the time was right to pursue postgrad studies. She was working part-time, her children were becoming more independent and she had time to spare. She enrolled in Charles Sturt’s fully online Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) as a part-time student.

Support on the journey

Kathy was delighted to find herself encircled by support on her upskilling journey.

“Not only do I have a supportive family, but I have such supportive friends and colleagues, a real cheer squad.

“I have studied while away for National Masters hockey tournaments the past two years and my teammates have been really supportive.

“I have been fortunate to have supportive principals and coordinators at the schools I have worked at while studying, along with excellent mentors in both the primary and secondary settings.

“The Charles Sturt teaching staff have been wonderfully supportive, easing my nerves about assessments, sharing their wealth of knowledge, inspiring me to apply best practice and answering my ‘stupid questions’.

“And in Canberra we have a fantastic teacher librarianship network where I have been able to share my ideas, develop skills and learn the more on-the-job knowledge.

“Without my family, friends and colleagues I would not have been as successful in my studies as I have been.”

Kathy’s dream job

While studying and working part-time, Kathy applied for and gained a full-time teacher librarian position at her current school, a Year 7–12 college. She’s now been in the position for just over 18 months.

So what exactly does a teacher librarian do? Kathy explains.

“There isn’t a day that is the same – I love the diversity of my job!

“I could be creating online resources for a classroom teacher, facilitating an educational ‘escape room’, taking a class on a VR (virtual reality) excursion or helping my students design a school garden – and let’s not forget planning for Book Week!

“I also run a weekly reading café for students with some colleagues, to share our love of books and reading.”

Kathy works with four other staff to support the teaching and learning needs of more than 1200 students. 

“I work in an amazing team. We are all dedicated to supporting students to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers and great humans.”

“On any given day we select literature for the shelves, find digital and physical resources to further support curriculum, provide curriculum-linked escape rooms, facilitate VR excursions, collaborate with staff and students to support learning and wellbeing, and build positive relationships within our community.

“I love being around staff and students. With the library literally in the middle of the school, there is no shortage of conversations about books, resources or daily life!”

Tips for balancing postgrad studies

Kathy has almost completed her master’s. And she’s happy to share her tips for balancing online postgrad studies with family and work. Just don’t forget the wine.

“I balance by having a supportive family, and I head to the National Library one night a week and on weekends when close to assessment due dates.

“When I worked part-time, I would go to a café on my day off work. I would drop the kids at school, order a coffee, then lunch with a sneaky wine, and finish studying in time to pick the kids up after school. I will admit COVID restrictions made it harder to juggle, as I had to do all my study at home.

“Remember, routine is important. Give yourself permission for some time for self-care. Know you can’t read everything, so do what you can manage. Be kind to yourself. And always have wine in the fridge.”

Get the benefits of upskilling

If you are like Kathy and it’s your time to pursue that dream job, upskilling with a postgraduate course can help you land it. Remember, when you love your work, you’ll never ‘work’ another day in your life!