With regional Victoria facing a teaching crisis, Monash alumna and successful businesswoman Christie Han wants to give back – and supports country school leavers to study education at Monash.
Monash alumna Christie (Wen Zhu) Han shares her passion for education and how she ignites the spark in those considering a teaching career.
How Christie’s early school years and university life fuelled her passion for teaching
In China, where Christie spent her formative years, teachers were held in great esteem for the time and energy they gave children.
“It takes a whole village to raise children but if a few children stay with teachers half of their time aren’t they supposed to be very important? she asked. “They are the stand-in parents.”
Christie is an only child — from the single child generation — and says children forged strong bonds with their teachers and parents due to a lack of siblings. As a result, she paid careful attention to her teachers’ methods.
She saw the difference between teachers who went the extra mile for students and those who didn’t and took inspiration from those teachers who followed up on her progress and helped her reach her goals. One teacher she admired was her classroom teacher in junior secondary school who was “very strict but comparatively fair and tried to give us more ideas of what our life would be like”. A quarter of her students went on to become teachers.
Christie was in her twenties when she studied for her Masters of Education (TESOL International) in 2006 and a Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) in 2013. She says she was inspired by her lecturers who still had enthusiasm for teaching in their fifties.
“They let me see how passionate you can be in your fifties,” she said. “I wanted to be like them in my fifties too, passionate about education, still having dreams…that’s what I want.”
Why she set up a tutoring business for international students
Before graduating in 2013, Christie noticed her Asian peers were falling behind when it came to job interviews. She knew they had the skills, knowledge, and capability to be fantastic teachers, but they were not selling themselves enough due to their inbuilt cultural humility. “In resumes they would only put 80 per cent of who they are and in interviews they only show 60 per cent of who they are,” Christie said.
After a few of her international peers struggled to find teaching roles, she set up a tutoring business, Austin Education, and gave these teachers jobs while also helping international students.
The main obstacle she had to overcome in her business was changing the attitude of international parents who had their own ideas of what their children should study. They did not recognise creative careers such as writing, designing and Youtube blogging but some are now understanding that these are valid career choices and support their children in their choices of education.
According to Christie, Austin Education offers education and tutoring, as well as 10 free seminars each year for international students and parents. She says this helps thousands of families see the big picture when it comes to Australian education systems, understand what’s on offer and enable a smooth transition to study in Australia.
Offering scholarships for rural students to study Education
In 2019, Christie decided she would give back to Monash by supporting Education scholarships through a philanthropic gift.
“I feel like I have been given a lot at Monash and realised what I had learnt in Monash,” she said. Christie thought about volunteering to mentor those studying to be teachers at the university but her workload at her business and at home did not give her much free time, so instead she committed to donating an Education scholarship to regional students.
She learnt about the work of The Smith Family, a charity helping disadvantaged students. “I was shocked — I didn’t think in Australia there would be disadvantaged students or students who need help in rural areas,” she said. “In rural areas they need more teachers,” she said. “If [Education students] can go back to rural areas and become a teacher, I think they can bring a lot back to their community, change the community a little bit, or at least they are encouraged to be a teacher.”
“If there is someone who needs help, why can’t I give a hand?” she asked. “[Since I have been] in Australia, I [have been] given a lot. “This is a really caring community. “I know that I want to make a huge change to a lot of things but even a little bit is enough. “It makes me happy.”
Christie feels proud to be able to contribute back to her university and is sharing the idea of giving to the university among her professional networks, some of whom never considered such a donation.
Christie’s generous philanthropic support for scholarships contributes to the university’s Change It. For Good. campaign, which is the largest public fundraising initiative in Monash’s history.