Publication:The West Australian; Date:Feb 1, 2014; Section:News; Page Number:26

High achievers want to share gift

After scoring Year 12 exam results that put them in the State’s top 3 per cent, these girls could have chosen just about any university course.

    But they all decided to be teachers, countering the popular perception that only low achievers opt for that degree because it is easier to get into.

    The Catholic Education Commission of WA has awarded them $10,000 scholarships to study education at Notre Dame University.

    Education dean Michael O’Neill said the students were selected for their Year 12 achievements in a Catholic school and their suitability for teaching, as assessed in an interview.

    “These scholarships are quite competitive and, as an indication, the average Australian tertiary admission rank for this year’s 10 recipients was 95,” he said.

    Sophie Monisse, who has an ATAR of 99.25, said she decided on teaching because she wanted to work with people.

    A trip to Vietnam in Year 11 showed her the difference education could make to a child.

    The former John XXIII College student plans to study a double degree in secondary education and a bachelor of arts and then specialise in teaching English literature.

    “I’ve always enjoyed English literature and throughout high school I’ve learnt better from teachers who are really passionate about their subject,” she said. “I wanted to share my enjoyment of literature.”

    Mary Tuson, who graduated from Mater Dei College with an ATAR of 99, always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

    “When I was little I liked to play teachers a lot,” she said. “My brother was always the principal but I got to mark my work every now and then.”

    She will study early childhood education and care. “I knew I wanted to work with really little kids,” she said.

    Professor O’Neill said it was important to dispel the myth that many high achievers did not choose teaching.

    “Each year we get a significant number of high achievers and this scholarship program is a wonderful way of recognising their achievement and supporting them,” he said.

    “They could choose almost any degree available but they choose to teach.They see teaching as a career that feeds the soul by providing an opportunity to give to others.”

    The minimum ATAR for entry to teaching courses in WA ranges from 65 to 80.

    WA Primary Principals Association president Stephen Breen said the State Government should consider raising the minimum teaching ATAR, as some States had.

Bethany Hiatt

High ideals: Sophie Monisse, left, Kylee Paynter, Mary Tuson, Jessica Varady and Brianna Bechelli had ATARs between 97 and 99 but have chosen to study education at Notre Dame University. Picture: Megan Powell