Maxine Thomas has returned to the Injune Children's Centre, volunteering as the kindergarten's qualified teacher. Without Maxine, the centre would not be able to deliver quality early education to local kids.
Maxine Thomas has returned to the Injune Children's Centre, volunteering as the kindergarten's qualified teacher. Without Maxine, the centre would not be able to deliver quality early education to local kids.

Meet the volunteer teacher giving back to country kids

FINDING a qualified kindergarten teacher for the Injune Children’s Centre was almost impossible.

And with numbers dwindling, there were worries that local kids would miss out on a quality early education.

But the return of one of the centre’s former teachers this week has saved the class.

Maxine Thomas had left early childhood for a career with Origin Energy three years ago, but when her former employer recently put out the call, the teacher with 20 years experience jumped at the chance to return to the classroom.

Maxine Thomas has returned to the Injune Children's Centre, volunteering as the kindergarten's qualified teacher. Without Maxine, the centre would not be able to deliver quality early education to local kids.
Maxine Thomas has returned to the Injune Children's Centre, volunteering as the kindergarten's qualified teacher. Without Maxine, the centre would not be able to deliver quality early education to local kids.

“They were desperate – without a qualified teacher, there would be no access to kindergarten, no formal early learning to prepare for school,” Ms Thomas said.

“I have lived in the area all my life, and I know these people in the community … I just couldn’t see a remote service as important as this face such a struggle.”

While returning to work at the kindy, Ms Thomas won’t be leaving her current job at Origin entirely.

Instead, she is contributing to the centre through her employer’s charity, the Origin Foundation.

Ms Thomas is volunteering as the qualified teacher, and essentially teaching by distance education: remotely developing a program which is then delivered by her colleagues at the Injune kindy.

“When Injune Children’s Centre reached out to me, I wanted to find a way to contribute through the Origin Foundation, Origin’s philanthropic foundation, which is primarily focused on changing lives through education,” Ms Thomas said.

Having Ms Thomas heading up the kindy program has made a huge difference at the Injune Children’s Centre.

Maxine Thomas has returned to the Injune Children's Centre, volunteering as the kindergarten's qualified teacher. Without Maxine, the centre would not be able to deliver quality early education to local kids.
Maxine Thomas has returned to the Injune Children's Centre, volunteering as the kindergarten's qualified teacher. Without Maxine, the centre would not be able to deliver quality early education to local kids.

Enrolment has already gone up significantly, and the kindy itself is now secure for the future.

“The Origin Foundation has been extremely supportive of my work to help Injune Children’s Centre and the children of Injune. In fact, the Children’s Centre has now seen enrolments go back up from seven to 11 students after parents who had fallen away brought their children back to the centre,” Ms Thomas said.

“We are supporting rural communities, and this is a really tangible way to do it. “No glitz and glamour, we’re just delivering a formal education program to little Australians who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access formal early years education.

“And we’re making sure it’s a really excellent program for them.”