As Jack Broome enters his classroom daily, he reminds himself how many barriers he’s smashed along the journey to become a teacher.
Jack, 24, lives with Cerebral Palsy and is one of the very few disabled teachers in the country. He’s proud that he can now influence the next generation. And he’s not just unapologetic about his disability; he’s proud.
“I am an educator with Cerebral Palsy who walks using two walking sticks and is affected in both legs.” “I always loved school and aimed to achieve success with whatever was considered conventionally ‘normal’ or necessary for any student.”
“If other kids were doing it, I wanted to be there too, and I wanted to prove that I deserved to be”.
Graduating in 2022 with a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood + Primary) at Charles Sturt University, Jack has wider aspirations. He’s devoted to assisting students with disabilities in succeeding within the education sector and beyond.
Born in New Zealand and moving to Australia at the age of 5,
Jack speaks about his childhood as ‘“normal… to some extent”.
Having his family and friends' support along the way made a massive difference. Not everyone has that support.
“I had a family that supported me at every turn, friends that helped me navigate my schooling and shared with me in my joys, as well as other role models and support accessible to me when I needed it.”
Jack was mindful he was different, and he didn’t want to be.
“I was aware of comments, perceptions and attitudes thrown my way as a child and felt a lot of pressure to mask my differences.”
Why choose to be a teacher?
The career decision was a direct result of the impact role models had on his life. His parents placed high value on education.
There were inspirational teachers along the way who recognised him as just a regular student, albeit one who was managing physical challenges on a daily basis without expecting special treatment.
But Jack had no disabled role models or educators in the school setting…no one truly understood him. Despite feeling this way, Jack had a deep love of learning.
He realised he could play a part in improving the education system for disabled kids…as an educator. He could make it more equitable and challenge attitudes.
During Jack’s degree, he had teaching placements. Students were curious and would ask the same questions he was confronted with when he was younger. It was a turning point in shaping his own sense of identity.
“Did I want to keep my barriers up and teach these kids that Cerebral Palsy is something to be ashamed of? Did I want them to feel scared to be curious?
Or did I need to make a change?”
Jack decided to be vulnerable and open up. As a result, his confidence grew.
˚I found the acceptance that I received to be overwhelmingly fantastic, a boost to my confidence.”
He’s conscious of stereotypes and stigma surrounding disability.
“Historically, stereotyping is taught through a societal lens and, in the case of disability, is a result of, and contributor to, the development of stigma.”
Jack challenges this notion by being transparent about his disability and challenges but modelling normality for people with disabilities.
HIGHLIGHTS IN CLASSROOM
Today, just one year into his career. Jack appreciates the joy his students bring him, especially how accepting and inclusive they are of his disability.
“I am constantly surprised how welcoming and supportive students can be when you take the time to normalise your own differences.”
Despite the challenges in his early weeks as a teacher, he still knew he had made the right career choice.
“I quickly learned how busy the profession could be but found it extremely rewarding to see the work and commitment pay off.”
“I believe that in a world without disabled educators, more children might continue to feel isolated and misunderstood as many of us have in the past”.
He hopes to see more disabled educators within the ‘mainstream’ sector of education,
“so that inclusion for disabled people is promoted consistently on a holistic level, rather than being confined or delegated solely to learning support environments.
For now, he is perfecting his teaching skills but knows he has found his purpose in life.
“I am aiming to better myself at every opportunity I can and to continue to prove my worth as a professional. For now, I will continue my role as a mainstream Classroom Teacher.”
Jack has a clear vision of a better future for people with disabilities. But he says it is up to disabled adults to pave the way for younger people with disabilities of the future.
He wants people living with disabilities to be brave enough to advocate for themselves and discuss their experiences, as he has.
“This teaches people not to walk on eggshells around disability but rather to begin a journey towards accepting it. ”