Essendon Keilor College teacher, Tony Adamson, was the winner of the Western Chances Helen Worladge Award in 2015, which recognises nominators who go above and beyond to support their students
The former stockbroker had a significant career change 11 years ago when he realised that the Collins Street life wasn’t for him, and he’s never looked back.
Hi Tony! Tell us a bit about yourself...
My name is Tony Adamson and I am currently a coordinator at Essendon Keilor College, where I have been working for the last 10 years. I live with my wife, soulmate and voice of reason, Kathy, two boys - Harry and Toby - and four chooks. When not teaching I love being outdoors and enjoy bushwalking and sailing.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
Teaching was never my first choice. The first decade of my working life I donned a suit and attempted to play the part of a Collins Street share broker. By the time I’d reached my 30s it was pretty obvious that this was not the career for me. Money in itself was not a motivation and in my heart I wanted to find something more rewarding. At the end of the year Kath and I flew to South America to spend a month tramping in the Patagonian and Andes. As we were hiking up to the base of the spectacular Monte Fitzroy, Kath kept bombarding me with suggestions; “what about working for a charity? What about building or landscape gardening?” When suddenly, out of the blue, she said off-handedly, “what about teaching?” Over the next week this idea began to take hold and upon returning to Melbourne I trammed up to Melbourne University, enrolled in a Bachelor of Teaching, and resigned from my job. 11 years later here I am. No regrets.
How did you find out about Western Chances?
I was first introduced to Western Chances why one of the school’s leadership team who asked me if I knew of any students who would be deserving of a scholarship. Since then I have always been on the lookout for students who show real talent and have an ability to do something with their lives. What I really love about Western Chances is it is not just about financial assistance. It is a recognition and celebration, by the broader community, of that individual’s achievements. It also acknowledges to the young person that people do notice when you put in that extra effort. The team at Western Chances, in particular Anne Connors, are terrific at finding opportunities for students and their families to experience and try new things from camps to college placements at University.
How do you identify students that you think qualify for a Western Chances scholarship?
I spend a lot of my time engaging with my students. We see them arrive as children straight out of primary school and over those years watch them develop into young adults. Spending so much time with these students one develops an understanding of their skills and abilities. One also gets a feeling for those things that are hard to measure – grit, ambition, perseverance, optimism, attitude, empathy and curiosity. Over these years I get to know their situation at home or background. I also speak to their teachers and other adults who are involved in their lives - coaches, music teachers, parents and guardians.
What is the one tip you would give to someone wanting to nominate a student for a scholarship?
Get to know your student well. Don’t just rely on their academic results or abilities. Know the person. Know what their dreams and ambitions are. Why do they want to be successful? Are they doing this for themselves or to make their parents proud? Where do they see themselves being in 10 or 20 years time? How do they see themselves contributing to their society? What do they see as the challenges facing them and how will they deal with these? You need to have a good understanding of your students, and see them as something as more than just good results or outcomes.
What advice would you give you a young person who might be experiencing barriers to fulfilling their dreams?
I think the most important thing one can do is focus and invest your energies into something you enjoy. Never decline an opportunity. Over the years I have noticed that those students who give everything a go, who volunteer, who overcome their shyness, who aren’t afraid to fail, or get it wrong, or are concerned about what their peers will say, are the students who seem to come through school with a richer and wider experience, more confident and knowing in what they want to do and what they are capable. I am a strong believer that making mistakes, getting things wrong and making a goose of yourself are an essential part coming successful.
What is your Big Dream for the future?
As a product of a comfortable eastern suburbs upbringing I am well aware that whilst ability is not defined by one’s postcode, opportunity, unfortunately is. I am somewhat appalled by the millions of dollars that certain sectors in education pour into building development and the acquisition of surrounding properties. How this extravagant spending benefits the community in the long run is uncertain. Yet, if a fraction of that money could be invested in some of the really talented (but financially or socially struggling) students, that I have been privileged to work with, then the long term return for our society would be substantial. It is my big dream that we as a society wake up to the realisation that as a nation, we are better served by fostering and nurturing our talent rather than pouring money into those sectors which will have little bearing on educational outcomes. Thank heavens we have organisations like Western Chances and their supporters, who are prepared to acknowledge and invest in the potential of these talented young people
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