Marg U’Ren is the first to admit she’s had a very fortunate life and career; yet she is humble in discussing her various achievements, and the positive impact she’s had on so many young lives.
The mother-of-two from Diamond Valley knew from the age of five that she wanted to be a teacher, and said she could never have seen herself doing anything else. Her determination and passion for education saw her accelerated to Principal of a struggling school in Melbourne’s North Eastern suburbs quite early into her career.
Marg brought with her a strong ambition to enforce a positive culture in the school and a message that ‘every single child can learn.’
Marg, along with her supportive and dedicated team, was able to raise the expectations of the school by overhauling the curriculum and implementing five tailored social intervention programs, which tackled issues of self-esteem in children and a no-tolerance approach to bullying. It was exceptionally important in Marg’s view to engage parents, families and community members within the school and encourage them to offer their diverse expertise to educate children in the likes of art, horticulture and academia.
“In everyday life these people wouldn’t necessarily have anything in common, but at school they had their children’s education.” Marg said.
During Marg’s 10 year tenure, the school grew from 300 students to 700, with some families travelling more than 30kms to access the programs on offer. Marg was recognised for her work by receiving a number of accolades including; “Victorian Principal of the Year” and a shortlisted nominee for the “Victorian Women’s Honour Roll.”
Marg feels she has always been drawn to marginalised and vulnerable groups within her work, and feels privileged to use her skills in an attempt to make a significant change to the lives of these people. Outside teaching, her career has seen her manage early childhood intervention services, provide support to families who have been affected by drug and alcohol addiction and help communities rebuild after the devastating Black Saturday bushfires.
Today, Marg is a Lead Teacher for Anglicare Victoria’s TEACHaR program, which provides tailored support to children and young people living in Out-of-Home care who are disengaging with mainstream education. She is part of a management team of 25 teachers who are specialised in various areas of education including; primary, secondary, VCAL, VET and Koori Education.
“I was attracted to this job because for many years I have seen these young people slip through the cracks. I think it’s hugely commendable that Anglicare Victoria has created a program that is so worthwhile for a group that’s often overlooked.”
Teachers are ‘matched’ with appropriate children based on their age, needs and goals; cases are reviewed and discussed fortnightly. Each child has a personal education plan and learning can be focussed around certain interests or aspirations.
Marg recounts the story of a 15 year old boy who is living in residential care. When the boy joined the TEACHaR program, he hadn’t attended school for a year and had no interest in education. His VCAL teacher developed a pathway with hurdles he would require to achieve if he wanted to succeed in his desired job. The student is now meeting with his teacher for two hours a week and has a mentor. Marg describes him as a “boy with a purpose now.”
“The celebrations in this job are far different from what you expect in a school every day, but I find the wins far more rewarding; in some instances they’re life-changing. I’d encourage any teacher who has a passion for education outside the mainstream to consider the TEACHaR program; it is a notch above.”