Big city teacher to rural school principal


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​From teaching in one of the biggest cities in the world to leading at a rural secondary school, Thomas McKenna is living out his dreams in Queensland.

An adventurer at heart, Thomas has taught in classrooms all over the world and has a clear favourite location to teach.

'I love the experiences I get as a teacher in Queensland,' Thomas said.

'In New York, you teach at one school and that's where you stay your entire career. In Queensland you can teach all over. It's given me opportunities and those opportunities have been advancing my career.

'You've never experienced more meaningful teaching than you do in a rural community. Not only are you teaching, you're part of the community. You're actually part of something and you feel part of something.

'I've taught all over the world and I've taught over most of Queensland. Queensland is the best spot.'​​​



As a father of 3, Thomas said spending time with his family was a priority for him, and working in regional Queensland gave him more of this valuable time.

'A big part of the reason to move out here is that we get to focus on ourselves and our kids and on being a family,' he said.

'We're definitely a closer family now because I don't have that travel time anymore, so I'm home right after work and I'm with my family, I'm with my kids.'

'When you're in the city, for whatever reason you just become time poor. Out here, they're growing up on a farm—we go to visit farms and they're playing with animals and they go to daycare and they're out in the yard just digging in dirt with other kids—what you want your kids to do, what we used to do as kids.'


Thomas said like starting at any new workplace, it took some time to learn the Australian Curriculum and Queensland Department of Education policies but with a bit of patience and collegial support, he soon got up to speed.

'A lot of places have different curriculum depending on where you go and Queensland wasn't any different,' Thomas said.

'The department actually has a lot of good resources. You can do some self-learning online and they're continuing to expand and further develop these.

'When I came from New York, I didn't know any of the policies. I knew American policies and a bit of international policies from working in Europe. I just learned and learned and learned.

'In a school, when you tell people you want to learn something, they'll help you. I've never been in a school where someone does not want to help you or isn't ready to go that extra step to help somebody who wants to learn and get them ready for teaching.'


With support at the school level, and from the Department of Education, Thomas said the benefits and incentives of working in regional Queensland were immeasurable.

'There are a lot of incentives for going out rural and remote and the further you go, the incentives get higher.

'You get extra days off, you get a yearly allowance, you get a locality allowance. There's a lot of benefits and that's probably not even half of them.'

Thomas invited more teachers to come to Queensland to see the benefits for themselves.

'We've had preservice teachers come from interstate to do their prac experience and they love it, and they come out and they're like, okay, well, I want to come back,' he said.

'There's nothing stopping you from going and having that experience.

'We have a joke that my wife says, “do you think you have the life?” Meaning like, do I have the best life in the world?

'I tell her I have the best life in the world being a principal in Queensland.'

'We moved out going, we'll be back in 2 years. Now we're talking, well, which farm are we going to buy? Best decision of our life.'

Ready to make a change? Find out more about relocating to Queensland.

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Last updated 14 March 2024