After almost two decades teaching at Melbourne’s Xavier College, Bernie Brysha decided it was time for a change. So last year, he joined the teaching staff at our Ignatius Learning Centre, a therapeutic school environment for young people in contact with the youth justice system.

“I have always had an interest in teaching students who experience barriers and challenges, and ultimately I don’t think young people in trouble are dealt with well. By locking up young people, we aren’t addressing the root causes of their problems or helping them to rehabilitate,” says Bernie.

Having opened in early 2021, the school is already having a positive impact on its students, many of whom have been disengaged with mainstream schooling.

“Students are engaging well and, more importantly, engaging in ways they wouldn’t be in a different environmental setting. We provide a more malleable curriculum than they could access elsewhere, and we focus on helping students believe in themselves above anything.”

Given the vulnerable students the school works with, it has continued to provide face-to-face learning during COVID-19. Attendance has remained strong even during Melbourne’s lockdowns, demonstrating the success of the tailored approach the school takes with its students.

“Students can come here where they feel comfortable and supported. Relationships are fundamental to the work we do and this has been shown during the COVID-related changes we have had to navigate.”

Bernie teaches literacy and hospitality as part of the Ignatius Learning Centre’s VCAL curriculum, which provides work-related experience and a qualification recognised by TAFE institutes and employers.

“I’m teaching the boys in the kitchen to cook their lunches, helping them to gain kitchen skills and a knowledge of kitchen safety. It’s really positive to help them get in touch with better quality food while learning new things.”