Meet Stephen

Life turns full circle: model maker to teacher

Stephen Thrum had carved out a successful career as a model maker for more than 20 years, working on a wide range of projects including town planning, engineering and museum display models.

While it was a career he loved, after losing his job as Brisbane City Council's Senior Model Maker when the model making unit was closed and when two major clients of Stephen's model making business didn't honour their debts, he decided to take his wealth of skills to a new arena – education.

"My wife Annette is a teacher and she suggested that I should try to find employment in a Manual Arts/Industrial Technology Department at a school as a teacher's aide, since my industry skills would be ideally suited to that role," Stephen says.

Stephen started a teacher's aide position at Padua College and from there decided to head back to university to gain his teaching degree.

"Initially I had concerns that I would be the oldest (being 46 at the time), however during our orientation I found that I was around the average age of my year's cohort. Getting the brain into the routine of study was initially daunting, but once I got settled in and developed a rhythm it became much easier."

After gaining his degree from Griffith University, Stephen took a position at Corinda State High School and is currently in his second year of teaching Design and the Built Environment for Years 7 to 9, and will be introducing Aerospace Studies as a subject in 2017.

Stephen says his career move into teaching has given him much satisfaction and presented many opportunities to share his interest in space design.

"Seeing the look of wonderment and achievement in student's faces and making a difference to young people's lives is a big thrill for me. As a past student of Corinda High, probably the biggest thrill is giving back to the school that got me started in life."

In July, Stephen accompanied a group of 20 students from Corinda State High School, Sheldon College, Canterbury College, Cannon Hill Anglican College and Padua College to the USA to compete in the International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC).

Stephen says the trip had many highlights, particularly for a self-confessed space geek like himself, and presented a rare opportunity for the students to compete against the best in the world at NASA headquarters. It also opened up valuable professional development opportunities.

"To see Australian students competing on a world stage in a space settlement design contest at NASA is awe inspiring. The competition helped them realise they were truly global citizens, not just in theory, but actually living and working in that environment alongside students from other nationalities on a joint project.

"For me professionally, I received two internship invitations from NASA's educational centres at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas studying their teaching methods, working alongside aerospace engineers, and assisting with a school based space camp," Stephen says.

Bringing his passion for space design to the classroom was one of Stephen's goals as a teaching student and his career achievements so far, including being a nominee for a 2015 QCT Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award, are a great example of what mature age teachers can bring to education.

"I am a huge advocate for mature age people changing careers and becoming teachers," says Stephen.

"I like to tell people that the secret to immortality is to become a teacher. Teachers have the rare and unique opportunity to pass on pieces of themselves, their knowledge, life lessons learned, skills learned the hard way, and their experience. A mature aged teacher has a veritable mountain of these experiences and skills to pass on."

There are a range of study pathways available to those seeking to change careers to become a teacher.

Article originally published on Teach Queensland News and Jobs, March 2016.
Last updated 08 March 2017

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