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Student Voice — The Next Chapter: Ethan McIntosh

Having worked tirelessly throughout Years 11 and 12 only to miss out on his dream of studying architecture, Ethan McIntosh embraced new opportunities and devoted his efforts to teaching.

Since graduating from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Ethan has found his calling in regional and remote education and working with Indigenous students.

My life began in Toowoomba; however, I moved with my mother to Maryborough in Grade 2 after my parents separated. I know very little about my birth dad and his family. For a while it was just mum and I, this was until she was fortune enough to meet the man who has been a father to me. They married shortly after and I now have three beautiful sisters.

At school, I enjoyed any class that I could use my hands or move – health and physical education, manual arts, graphics, and design technology were my favourites. I also enjoyed maths and science. I wasn’t great at English because there was no formula to follow (I still don’t enjoy English but find I am better at teaching it because it is the lesson I place the most effort on because I know it is not my strongest area).

I worked almost full time in Years 11 and 12, doing night fill for a supermarket. I would begin work around five and finish close to midnight, so I would often sleep a lot in class. I chose to do so in lessons like graphics and science, which I was good at and knew I could pass regardless.

I was lucky to have teachers who understood this. I used the money I earnt to buy a car, school supplies and lunches to have financial independence and to help my parents cover school costs. This included the supplies required for my manual arts. I suppose that was my biggest challenge. I worked hard in Semester 2 of Year 12 but, unfortunately, it was too little too late to make  big difference on my Overall Position (OP) [equivalent to the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) in other Australian states].

None of my immediate family had gone to university, but I had always aspired to study architecture. Unfortunately, my OP was nowhere near good enough, so I worked in a bottle shop for two years. At the same time, I was helping my younger sisters at school and, after a year of this, I decided I wanted to go to university and study teaching.

I found out about the Indigenous Alternative Entry Program when I went to the QUT open day. The biggest strength of this program is that they employ uni students who are, or were, in the same situation as you.

I was lucky enough to work for Explore Uni and also the Oodgeroo Unit as a Student Ambassador and found that a lot of the people I spoke to were me before I began uni; the things I was worried about were the things they were worried about too. It’s a good feeling being able to tell people it’ll be fine, I was there once and I am here now.

Moving to Brisbane to begin university, and from a full-time job to study, was very daunting. My now wife and I had to find somewhere to live and we had to find house mates as we couldn’t afford the rent on our own. Our families were able to support us initially (furniture and money for groceries) but they could not continue to do so. I worked at a bottle shop for the first year of uni – but like high school, I was working too much and struggling to achieve the results I thought I could.

When I first began uni, I said that I wanted to work in the administration side of education. I am proud that I have worked hard to achieve that. I am also proud that I took the leap and taught in a small rural school, although moving 20 hours away from my family was something that I really struggled with.

After I graduated, I worked in Brisbane teaching at Kurwongbah State School in Petrie. I worked with a great team of Year 3 teachers who showed me the ropes. I then had an exciting opportunity to move to Mount Isa and, again, I have been lucky to work with a great team of teachers there. Just recently, I have had the opportunity to work as acting principal at Karumba State School and Julia Creek State School. I am currently employed as Deputy Principal of Morayfield State School.

We decided to work in a remote school as my wife and I wanted the challenge and a sea change. I am not a fan of large cities (growing up regionally) and really became tired it taking so long to travel such a short distance. I liked the idea of working  in a smaller school — my school in Brisbane had 1,000 students whereas my school in Mount Isa had just 140. I also have a passion to work with students from an Indigenous background and the school I worked at in Mount Isa had a large Indigenous population. I had planned to stay for longer, however I was offered the job at Morayfield State School and it was an amazing opportunity.

Knowing that my actions are helping our future generations motivates me. There is nothing better than watching a student who could not read or write do this for the first time. I also find great joy in watching students show their personality, having conversations about what they like/afraid of/achievements and hopes for the future.

My sisters are all talking about being teachers and it is nice to think that I have inspired them to better themselves. By working hard and gaining different promotions, I have shown my family that anything is possible.

My values really shape who I am. These values came from my parents (mum and step-dad) and they are the values that I try to make sure my students value also.

My advice to others is, don’t give up. Work hard and find like-minded people who want to see you succeed. And if you’re a teacher — a five-second conversation is more important than you realise.

Read more inspiring stories of student success here.

Posted 17 October 2019 Posted in First in Family, General, Indigenous, Low SES, My Story — Student Voice, Regional, rural and remote