Lill Daley looks for the best in any situation. Give the Bendigo primary school teacher a tier-one exposure site and a stint in isolation, and she’ll see yet more feats of resilience.
“It’s been a big week,” she says, when she spoke to the Bendigo Campus Blog.
“Our kids are doing some pretty amazing things via remote learning. The teachers continue to show up – despite what is going on in their own lives – and do their best. And our best looks different every day. I’m telling myself at the moment, do your best, whatever that looks like today.”
The wise words Lill tells herself have changed her life, and they’re having a profound effect on others, too.
In 2018, three years after graduating from her La Trobe Bendigo Education degree, Lill founded The Teacher Collection. Her business produces beautiful resources to empower, energise and inspire teachers, and it all started in her own classroom. But first, let’s go back a little…
Lill moved from Melbourne to Bendigo to pursue her Bachelor of Physical and Health Education degree after secondary college, chasing a regional lifestyle.
“I was raised in Melbourne and I chose to come to La Trobe in Bendigo for a couple of reasons, the first being that I loved the country,” she says. “My grandparents had a farm that we spent a lot of time on and I couldn’t wait to get out of Melbourne. And Bendigo was close, so I could still travel home for weekends.
“I lived on res for my first year. Coming from Melbourne and knowing nobody, being on res gave me a chance to meet people, make new friends and find my way around Bendigo.
“I found it was a lot more relaxed than going to uni in Melbourne. I had friends studying in the city who said the classes were very competitive. I’m still friends with a lot of people I went to uni with, so the sense of community here was fantastic.
“The placements were great as well because we had access to so many more schools in Victoria, particularly rural and remote schools, just because of the location.”
Forging a career and business in rural and regional Australia
Lill had her heart set on staying regional, so took a graduate position at St Mary’s Primary School in Rushworth; a small school with 70 students, an hour east of Bendigo. “To have that rural experience was amazing,” she says.
Then, Lill and her husband went travelling for 18 months, and she taught in Alice Springs and Darwin. “There is a perception, in Bendigo especially, that graduates need to stay put in a school until they get an ongoing position,” she says. “I found the experience I got while travelling and working in different schools really made a difference to my career.”
It also gave her a crash course in the challenges facing regional and rural teachers.
“As a teacher, particularly starting off in a smaller rural school, you have to be really adaptable, resilient and a massive problem solver. You can’t wait for people to give you the skills, you have to solve things for yourself.
“Some days were really tricky. I wanted to create a space in the classroom to re-inspire me in those moments when I was feeling flat or defeated. So, I made some cards for myself.”
Those cards featured favourite quotes and reminders such as, ‘The work that I do matters’. And, ‘I am resilient and capable’.
Soon, Lill’s colleagues began asking where she got them, so she made more to share, and her business blossomed from there.
She says other teachers began coming to her with their own sources of inspiration, which triggered many valuable conversations now reverberating throughout her customers.
“I’m getting a lot of messages at the moment from people who’ve purchased cards for a colleague, and when that person has opened the package, they’ve sat down and cried,” Lill says.
“I’m learning a lot of heart felt stories. The business is so much more than popping cards in a box to send off. People are really struggling, and it’s nice to know that they’re finding comfort in what I create.
“It was just something I enjoyed doing. I never intended it to be like this, but I do enjoy the connections I make along the way. It’s about people recognising that it’s hard now. It’s momentary, but we all need empathy and support.”
Do you know of a teacher who could use a reminder of their worth and importance? Check out Lill’s website for inspiration.