MID North Coast high school teacher Kayla White has a deep passion for her culture that she brings into her classroom.
She is a proud Birpai woman who started her career at Melville High School in Kempsey in 2010 as the first Indigenous school and administrative support staff member in the front office.
"I loved the work I did, but I was drawn to the kids and the classroom," she said.
Kayla then enrolled at the University of Sydney to study a Diploma in Aboriginal Education before studying a Bachelor of Education, Aboriginal Studies.
"I'm a very proud Birpai women. I have always lived in the Camden Haven area and this is my homeland and where I am connected to country."
Kayla's passion for teaching and her culture have helped her build a strong foundation for her career as a teacher at Camden Haven High School where she has worked for the past five years.
"I am just a regular teacher in a classroom, but it's us regular teachers that have the everyday interactions with our students and become their greatest influence," she said.
I hope that one day I will be a leader of Aboriginal education within the community.- Kayla White
"I understand that every encounter with our kids matters, when they leave school they may not remember what they learnt in the classroom, but they will remember the way we educators made them feel."
Kayla's dedication to her students' education has resulted in her being named a joint recipient of the 2020 Australian Education Union's Arthur Hamilton Award for Outstanding Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education.
Kayla received the award in May this year and will be presented at the official awards ceremony in Melbourne in August.
"It's a great honour to be recognised for such a major award," Kayla said.
"As an Aboriginal woman and mother, giving back to my community is something I am very proud of.
"I am inspired by my community and our Elders here in Birpai Country that have set the path for me to follow."
The most rewarding part of Kayla's job is her chance to be a role model to young Indigenous youth on the Mid North Coast.
"I enjoy helping children develop and strengthen their own values. I feel it projects confidence in our kids to know that I was once a student in this community and am now back in my local schools teaching them."
Learning about Indigenous culture is important for all students, Kayla said.
"Underneath the concrete and asphalt, we all stand on Aboriginal land, it always was and always will be Aboriginal land.
"For us to go forward together, it is important for all of our students to understand the true history of our country. This is what drives me as an educator."
As well as her strong passion for education in the classroom, Kayla is also involved in a number of community organisations.
She is an executive member of the Hastings Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) where she represented the community at a regional level and at a state AECG conference and AGM in Sydney.
Kayla is also involved in the Aboriginal Education Committee with the NSW Teachers Federation.
She is also the vice president of the Camden Haven Eagles Football Club, a member protection information officer with the Camden Haven Redbacks and coaches the Camden Haven Pink under-6s team.
Kayla balances her teaching career and community work with being a mother of six while also studying for her Master of Education Leadership through the University of Sydney.
"I hope that one day I will be a leader of Aboriginal education within the community," she said.
"I am a proud Aboriginal woman and my culture has always been very important."
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