Elizabeth Caine has a smile on her face and wears a graduation gown and cap. Photo: Michael Gray

Teaching graduate thrilled with new role in regional town

Teaching graduate thrilled with new role in regional town

Elizabeth Caine joined by family, including 93-year-old grandmother, at graduation

Many students from regional areas find themselves relocating to the city for university or for work, in search of brighter lights and more opportunities.

Elizabeth Caine had the opposite experience.

Growing up in the heart of Sydney, Elizabeth could see the Harbour Bridge from her school and was used to the hustle and bustle of city life.

But when it came time to choosing a university, Elizabeth decided on Wollongong for the chance to enjoy a slower pace and a community feel on campus.Now, she has found herself in Riverina, in the rural enclave of Coleambally, population of approximately 1300, where she is living her dream of teaching at a small school.

“I’ve done it backwards,” Elizabeth says with a laugh. “I’ve moved from the big city to a tiny town. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, I absolutely love Coleambally. The community is amazing and has been so welcoming.”

Elizabeth returned to Wollongong last week to celebrate her graduation from the University of Wollongong (UOW) with a Bachelor of Primary Education. She was joined by her parents, still based in Sydney’s Lane Cove, and by her 93-year-old grandmother, who flew from Toowoomba in Queensland for the occasion.

Elizabeth was thrilled to have her family by her side for her graduation, particularly her grandmother, Judith Barker. She was the last grandchild to graduate; as the wife of a Vice-Chancellor, her grandmother has overseen hundreds of graduations over the decades, including her own family.

Education has always been a strong part of Elizabeth’s family. Her grandfather, Dr Lindsay Barker, was the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland; her uncle is a university lecturer, multiple of her aunts are current and former teachers, one of which being a school principal, and yet another aunt being the CEO of a nationally registered training organisation.

Elizabeth Caine has a smile on her face and wears a graduation gown and cap. She stands next to her grandmother Judith. Photo: Michael Gray

Elizabeth Caine with her grandmother Judith Barker. 

For her part, Elizabeth says she always loved learning and sharing her knowledge with others.

“School was a great place for me. I love to learn and, in the classroom, I was happy to help friends who were struggling with or didn’t understand a concept.”

Now in charge of a Year 5 class, Elizabeth delights in her new role. She chose to pursue primary teaching because, as she puts it, the “kids are still so excited to learn”.

“They come to school and they’re happy to be there, but they’re also open to being silly. I love being able to be a bit silly with them while we are learning. Getting to watch them take on new experiences and concepts is rewarding. It is so much fun.

“I love the kids and the job.”

Elizabeth was the recipient of a Department of Education teach.Rural Scholarship, which provides financial support in exchange for spending three years teaching in a regional, rural or remote area.

When Elizabeth found out she was moving to Coleambally, her first thought, she says, was “where is that?” And while she was extremely nervous about uprooting her life and starting over in a new area, 7 hours from her family and friends in Sydney, it has been a joyous experience so far.

The Coleambally community has accepted her with open arms, and from her city background, Elizabeth now finds kangaroos on her doorstep and is getting to know everyone in the small town.

“It was incredibly daunting to move to Coleambally, but it has been an amazing experience so far.”