At 61 years of age, Annette Purton is a passionate humanitarian and an accomplished educator who completed a Masters of Applied Linguistics in 2017 at UNE as a mature age student. Her story is one of intrigue and inspiration and recently I was fortunate enough to have her share it with me.
Growing up in the small country town of Forcett, in southern Tasmania, Annette’s first job was at a music store while she was in school. Soon after graduating, she took up a position as a records clerk in a state government department.
Annette’s early life saw her reaching many life milestones all before her thirtieth birthday; she was married in her early twenties, had three children and became a single parent soon after.
Being a young, sole provider for her family naturally came with its challenges.
“In order to boost family support income, I did house cleaning for a living and often had to take my young children with me.”
Amazingly, in addition to her work and family life she found time to volunteer at her children’s school and help out in the classroom. An interest in education sparked and this eventually led to a permanent job in the Tasmanian Education Department where she held a variety of positions over many years from teacher’s aide to administration roles.
The push to work more closely in education was calling Annette’s name.
Not having had the opportunity to participate in tertiary education when I was younger was a major disappointment in my life. As an older person, I wanted to change this situation because I had a real thirst for learning and wanted to be an inspiration to my children.
Annette had another major motivator to follow her aspirations for further study.
Annette has a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease that has rendered her legally blind. Determined not to let this get in the way of her plans, in the mid 1990s she enrolled in her first university course-an Associate Diploma in Modern Languages at the University of Tasmania.
She balanced studying, mothering and part-time work all while being unable to drive and relying on limited public transport to get around.
“I also had to take my two younger children to some classes with me on occasion as I didn’t have any other family support. I persevered though and was rewarded with my Associate Diploma in 1998.”
Years passed by and with the assistance of distance education access, Annette was able to enrol in a Bachelor of Education at the University of Tasmania, in hopes of fulfilling her desire to become a teacher.
I have had an eclectic teaching career: distance teaching, teaching literacy, numeracy and computer skills to TAFE students in prison and also students enrolled in skills courses such as hairdressing, childcare and other community service areas.
Working with students from other cultures who speak different languages has become a particular interest. Annette has been teaching English as an Additional Language to high school and college year level refugee students from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal and Ethiopia.
“I became intrigued with the different cultures and, in particular, the languages spoken by the students combined with their ability to learn English and the Roman alphabet. My fascination with language was the reason for enrolling in a Masters of Applied Linguistics with a TESOL major at- UNE.”
Author: Alexandra Cook
UNE Office of Advancement
Ph: 02 6773 2870