Story and photos credited to the Wangaratta Chronicle
Recent graduate teachers, Anna Hedstrom and Finn Pederson were inspired by their time in CEP’s Teach Rural program to move to Beechworth and teach at Beechworth Secondary College. Ms Hedstrom and Mr Pederson have lived in many cities including Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Stockholm and said they are excited to explore somewhere different after completing their masters last December.
“A city is a city and what’s unique about working here is that you’re pushed out of your comfort zone and forced to do different kinds of activities,”
They decided to move to Beechworth after spending time in Tallangatta on their Teach Rural placement as it gave them a taste of the benefits of living rurally.
Mr Pederson said he initially took part in the Teach Rural program due to travelling between Melbourne and his family farm in regional Victoria.
“I’ve always wanted to have an extension of that kind of living, because I always preferred living on the rural side than the Melbourne side,” he said.
He said they were pleasantly surprised by the lifestyle change and how welcome they were made to feel in a rural town.
“One thing, friends who aren’t doing teaching but live in Melbourne and grew up in Melbourne, kind of worry about is if you’ll feel isolated in a country town,” he said.
“I think it’s the opposite because in Melbourne you feel your connected to everything but you’re not, you’re kind of in your bubble but when you’re
in a country town you’re not isolated from a caring community, you’re not isolated from the nature, you’re not isolated from a fulfilling job.”
While they have found a lot of differences between the city and rural areas, Mr Pederson said there are also quite a few similarities.
“Once you’re in a rural town or rural community it doesn’t feel that different to being in Melbourne but on paper it feels like it’s going to be this huge change,” he said.
“People in the city think Wangaratta is the wild west but you’ve just got to go out there and see that there’s a Zambreros there so it’s not too far.”
Ms Hedstrom agreed with this sentiment and also said the placements in rural towns offer better work life balance than those in the city.
“It’s really hard to sometimes do your teaching placements in Melbourne
while you’re balancing all the other things that you’re doing in your life; it really felt like we could just step back and focus on the teaching,” she said.
“There was a weekend bonus of just being in nature; we went and did some other expeditions with some of the other student teachers that were out and they took us out bushwalking.”
Ms Hedstrom will be teaching visual arts for year 7 to year 10 and Mr Pederson will be teaching humanities. For both of them, teaching wasn’t their initial career choice. While studying in Canberra, Ms Hedstrom studied visual arts and Mr Pederson studied politics, philosophy and economics and they each had turning points in their careers that influenced them to pursue teaching. Before teaching, Ms Hedstrom worked in art exhibition management and visual merchandising and realised she wanted to pursue something that benefited others. “I thought this isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life and who is it really benefitting, and it was kind of like, okay, I just sell shoes and art,” she said.
“I’d rather help young people’s eyes open to what art is all about and maybe they can become artists or even just become appreciative of art.”
Mr Pederson realised his passion for working with others while working in finance in Stockholm where he said he began to feel like his whole career was just managing an email inbox. “Slowly but surely I realised that’s what my life is, just managing this email inbox, not going out and meeting people that much, or if it is its digital over Zoom,” he said.
“It just got to me that this can’t be a fulfilling life, and can’t be what I want to do. “I thought, ‘I want to be out working with people, especially with kids and in public education and in a rural community’, which is basically the complete opposite of European banking in Stockholm.”
Both Mr Pederson and Ms Hedstrom are extremely grateful for their time during the Teach Rural program and are looking forward to staying in Beechworth in the foreseeable future.