The proud recipient of the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award for 2016 was keen to experience life beyond the Brisbane bubble. 

So, upon completing her Griffith University course, Fltnn headed for the 100-student Saibai Island campus of Tagai State College.

Situated just four kilometres south of Papua New Guinea, tiny Saibai has a revolving population of about 300, a local store, school, a health centre and a church.

Arriving at the start of 2015, Flynn began her time on the island with a 1/2 class, then a 2/3 last year and in 2017 will be taking a 4/5/6 group.

“It’s a little bit of the reason why I’m staying,” she says.

“I kind of thought ‘here’s an opportunity to finish with 4,5,6’ and it really makes my time on Saibai, that I have seen the full run between 1 and Year 6.

“I feel like, in a way, it keeps me moving forward; I feel like I’d maybe struggle on Saibai if I was doing the same thing over and over - there’s new fresh things in my mind, new curriculums to learn.”

With a Japanese mother, Flynn is bilingual and linguistics by extension are an area of great interest for her

Now two years into a masters in Applied Linguistics, the young go-getter has been using her analysis of the differences between Torres Strait Islander Creole and Standard Australian English to inform her teaching.

“I guess by doing the Masters and understanding the theory behind language systems and how they work and second language acquisition, I think in all areas in the classroom that has helped me deconstruct and break down the language of maths, of science, of English, whatever the KLA might be, and present it in a way that is really focusing on the language and then the content.

“A lot of people think, ‘oh, it must really help in English [the subject]’, but actually maths is so 'language-y', science is so 'language-y', history is so 'language-y' and a lot of the time the barrier I guess to the content, to the skills and knowledge in the learning areas is the language.

"It’s not that they can’t learn the concepts in science, or maths, it’s just that the language can be so difficult and that has to be approached first and foremost.”

Flynn says the support she has received from TSC has been second to none.

“I think their support system in the teaching and learning team, the literacy and numeracy coaches, the early years coaches, everybody in the teaching and learning team at Tagai does a great job to support all their teachers on all of the islands - because it’s quite a unique school, in that there are so many campuses spread across hundreds of kilometres of ocean."

Flynn says the coaches fly out and maintain contact with staff constantly

“I think Tagai do an incredible job at supporting their graduate teachers in areas of EALD, but also in just good teaching, good pedagogy, good behaviour management, all the teaching standards that really make a good teacher.

“I honestly don’t think this award would have happened if it wasn‘t for the support Tagai gave me last year – I really wholeheartedly mean that."

The teachers on Saibai are also a great source of support for each other.

“We all have our different strengths – (fellow beginning teachers) Belinda and Jordan were also nominated for the beginning teachers excellence award, and their strengths lay around STEM, digital technologies and that area - so I learn a lot from them and they learn, I hope (laughs) something from me as well,” Flynn says.

While remaining a Queensland teacher and spending her PD fund cash prize of $5000 wisely are priorities for the young educator, she says travel in the coming years and experience more cultures are high on her list as well.