UOW graduate Lily Klasson. Photo: Paul Jones

Graduate’s journey from first in family to University Medallist

Graduate’s journey from first in family to University Medallist

Lily Klasson reflects on love of teaching and the importance of mentors

For as long as Lily Klasson can remember, she has wanted to be a teacher.

It was a career path forged during her own years at Shellharbour Public School, when she was helped by some exceptional teachers. 

“I had a really positive experience at primary school,” Lily said. “I was very lucky to be taught by lots of passionate primary teachers. They sparked my love of learning, so it was really beneficial to have those teachers to help me.”

“I feel very grateful to be able to contribute to that in the younger generation.”

Lily, who has graduated from the University of Wollongong (UOW) with a Bachelor of Primary Education (Honours Class I), is now in the position of being able to make a difference in her own students’ lives.

Except her first year in the classroom has not quite been what she expected. Just weeks after Lily started teaching at public schools in the Illawarra, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and changed life as we knew it.

“It has been a really odd time,” said Lily, who has been working at different schools throughout the government restrictions. “But it just shows how amazing teachers are. The amount that we’ve been able to do in transitioning to remote learning, in such a short timeframe, is incredible.

“I miss the hustle and bustle of the classroom. It’s such an interesting and challenging time.”

The first in her family to attend and graduate from university, Lily said she has been helped immensely in her studies and in finding her feet as a student by the academics and staff in the School of Education. She was awarded the University Medal, which recognises outstanding academic achievement among students.

Combined with her hard work and her passion for education, having mentors to help her along the way has opened so many opportunities for Lily during her degree.

“Because I was the first in my family, my mother and father hadn’t gone to university, I didn’t have the background and the knowledge of university that a lot of my friends had,” said Lily, who received Early Admission to UOW.

“That made it a little bit more challenging but I was so well supported by the university. I was able to connect with a lot of like-minded people and my lecturers and tutors were so helpful.

“I came to university and I immediately felt like I had found my people in the School of Education.

“Associate Professor Pauline Jones, in particular, was a real mentor to me. She helped me with so much.”

In her final year of study, Lily undertook an Honours year, in which she worked alongside Professor Jones and Associate Professor Jessica Mantei on her thesis, which looked at how a Year 4 teacher and their students interpret literacy learning in their classroom.

While she loved the practical side of teaching, this experience also opened up the world of research, which she is hoping to return to in the years to come. 

“My Honours year was really challenging but also very rewarding,” Lily said. “That was mainly because of the kind of people I was able to connect with, like Professor Mantei and Professor Lisa Kervin. I just loved the research side of education.” 

Being able to make these connections was a real highlight for Lily, and helped to open so many doors to different opportunities, including research assistant work and involvement with professional teaching associations. She also loved the chance to volunteer for Learning Labs

“That was a really valuable experience. It gave me a chance to connect with students and their parents. I loved being part of that.”

Now that she is out working in schools, albeit in a strange new time of online learning, Lily is thrilled to be putting what she has learned into practice. Although she one day hopes to return to future study – “perhaps become a teacher librarian or work in research” – Lily loves her place in the classroom and is enjoying the change of pace that comes with relief teaching after a busy Honours year. 

Despite not being able to celebrate her graduation in person, she and her fellow classmates held a Zoom graduation and Lily also marked the occasion with her family. 

“My family are so proud of me. I loved my degree, I loved all of it. I was really sad to finish.

“Deciding to go to UOW and doing my degree was the best decision I’ve ever made.”