Name: Melody Ingra
Melody Ingra of Gladstone, Queensland is focused on helping students to achieve their absolute best, and in the process she has certainly garnered the praise of her peers.
Melody is the teacher with the Gladstone Indigenous Vocation Enterprise Network (GIVEN) program based at Toolooa State High School. GIVEN provides business and education contacts from within the community to 225 students throughout the district.
The program uses the real world as a classroom one day a week. “What we do is show kids all those opportunities that are there for Indigenous people,” Melody says. “We create pathways for our Indigenous students to go on to full-time employment, apprenticeships and university.”
Melody believes in a non-traditional approach to teaching. “When working with kids, you can’t work with them just on an academic side” and expect to help them “only at school between 9am and 3pm and that’s it”, she says. “I think you have to look at the whole person and have a look at what they do outside of school.” GIVEN gives Melody the chance to organise sport for her students, as well as foster connections with Elders in the Aboriginal community.
And she’s close to that community. Born, raised and educated in Gladstone, Melody has always had role models who made her feel that she could achieve her goals.
Now, she’s introducing her students to successful Indigenous industries and non-Indigenous organisations in an effort to pass on the same inspirations. “It’s fun to be a teacher,” Melody says. “These kids are the next judges and lawyers and doctors, and I can see our next generation having all these opportunities. They just have to go out there and get them.
“I wanted to be a teacher because I hated the fact that when I went to school they were all white teachers. I didn’t want my [children] to put up with the same things in school that I did.” After leaving school, Melody went to Deakin University in Melbourne to train as a teacher before returning to Gladstone.
When writing lesson plans, Melody often looks to see what cultural aspects kids need to understand. Real-world examples often make that process more relevant, which is why Melody has organised trips to the Murri School, 4AAA Radio Station, the Indigenous Centre for Performing Arts, the Queensland University of Technology and North Stradbroke Island.
In addition, she incorporates her students’ interests into her teaching. She uses Deadly Vibe as a literacy tool. “We use the Vibe web site too, especially now with the Vibe Chat,” she says.
Melody says the most difficult part of her job is not having enough time for everything she wants to do. She puts so much energy into her job that “by Saturday I’m fully drained”. And yet she is also involved with the local NAIDOC committee, organising touch football and basketball trips outside of school, and coordinating an organisation called Coastal Connections, which brings Elders and kids together at significant sites on nearby islands for instruction in traditional fishing, hunting and gathering.
The students inspire Melody to keep up the good work. The most gratifying part of her day is “when kids come and say thank you. When they say “I really learned something the other day’.”