“The entire community is appreciative of the school and love what we do. We feel privileged and honoured to be here.”
Mike (Jangala) Tucker, Principal
Mike (known as Jangala in Community) joined Kulkarriya Community School as Principal in 2013, having previously worked in the independent education system on the east coast as a teacher, in mid-level management and as a head of middle school.
“I began my teaching career in western New South Wales working in Indigenous communities. I then worked in schools in north Queensland and spent time in boarding schools, but Indigenous education had always been an interest of mine.”
Jangala was attracted to a new challenge at KCS because of his desire to use his experience in a community where the positive impact of education is highly visible.
“I got to a point in my career where I’d gained a lot of experience, so I was looking for a challenge and something new. The notion of returning something is important to me. Education is incredibly important and I’ve had an outstanding education, so I wanted to give something back. I felt that KCS was a place where I could make a real difference.”
As Principal, each day brings challenges and, of course, a busy schedule. Jangala’s day begins bright and early at 5.30am when he completes routine jobs for the day ahead and by 7.30am, he’s driving the school bus to pick up students in the area. Throughout the day, Jangala visits all classrooms to check-in with teachers and kids, and during the lunch break, he can be found on playground duty. Being in such a remote area, if a teacher is ever unwell it’s Jangala who steps in to teach the class for the day. It’s a hands-on Principal role and that’s exactly what he loves.
“I love that my role at the school is so hands on and is more so than any other role I’ve had. It involves everything from having to unclog toilets to cleaning, teaching then planning a multi- million dollar budget. What I love most is the opportunity to spend time with the kids and be in their classrooms. It’s so important to be visible.”
What Jangala enjoys most about his role is the improvements he is consistently able to make, alongside a small but dedicated team of teachers. Describing the team as always being on a trajectory to improve the lives of students, Jangala explains that closing the gap encompasses more than education. As well as an intense focus on teaching and learning, Jangala adopts a holistic approach to education and as a child-centred school, there is one question he always asks himself before making a decision that impacts KCS – does this add value to the lives of our students?
“If we can’t answer yes to that question and provide reasoning, then the answer is always no. We’re wholly focused on our kids and want the best for them in everything we do. Education is power and we only want to give power to our community.”
A strong focus at KCS is preparing students for senior education in other locations. By establishing boarding school arrangements in larger towns and cities, Jangala and the team ensure their students are given the opportunity for broad experiences. The individual interests and strengths of each child are always considered when finding a school that suits best. In 2017, 15 students were accepted into boarding schools and for Jangala, this rewarding initiative is a key part of closing the gap
– “It’s something we’ve been working on for many years and it’s exciting to see such a big opportunity available to our kids.”
Along with the teachers, there are currently 14 Aboriginal education teachers at KCS who provide an irreplaceable presence across the 7 classrooms. Jangala describes them as the best of the best in the business – “I find our staff are really committed to their kids. This isn’t an easy job. It’s remote and very different to working in a city school. You need to be resilient and self-sustaining and that’s the type of people we have here. They’re dedicated, hardy people who are keen and extremely interested in what they do.”
Jangala attributes the immense reward and satisfaction he experiences to student outcomes and staff happiness, which he believes creates the ‘good feel’ that KCS has. The chance to work with wonderful kids every day and provide teachers with unique experiences and opportunities they can’t gain elsewhere is also highly rewarding.
“Here, you get to work with great kids all the time who have the best sense of humour! It’s rewarding to see their achievements and your achievements, and to come to work each day with like-minded colleagues who want to reach the same goals. We are also surrounded by beautiful scenery and you have a million acres of land at your disposal. What’s not to love about that?”
While the isolation of living and working in the remote community of Noonkanbah is not a lifestyle that suits everyone, Jangala enjoys the time and space it creates to focus on interests and passions, and to make the most of the environment around him.
“We are relatively simple, unencumbered by modern things. It’s simple in the nicest way and allows for a good lifestyle, particularly within this amazing natural environment. But simple definitely doesn’t mean we can’t do great things for our kids. We have tremendous capacity at KCS.”
With 2018 marking the 40th birthday of KCS, Jangala feels a huge sense of pride seeing how successful the school is today, knowing it came from humble beginnings, first teaching kids in 1978 in a wool shed. Looking forward, Jangala is excited for what lies ahead.
“There are so many great things that can happen for the school. Achieving national standards to really show what we can do out here; maintaining our attendance rates; and having our kids be successful in whatever they want to do is what excites me about the future.
Working at KCS is the best job I’ve ever had. Everything we do is positive. Every child benefits every day. We have a team of dedicated teachers who care about their kids, and the kids are very appreciative of what we do and they show it. There is such a connection they have with the teachers. The entire community is appreciative of the school and love what we do. We feel privileged and honoured to be here.”