Steering the first class of the new Wangaratta campus is the North-East region well-loved coach/teacher/mentor, Justin McMahon. We caught up with Justin to ask a few questions about his background in both the football and education industry and find out what drew him to take on such an important role at The Academy.
The Academy: Hi Justin. How’s life living in beautiful Wangaratta?
Justin: Yeah it’s great. Autumn is a great time of the year in the North East.
TA: The Academy program uses students’ passion for footy as the main engagement tool to help them achieve throughout year 11 and 12; can you tell us a little about your background and experiences in the football industry?
J: I played local football for the Wangaratta Magpies in the Ovens & Murray League and got into coaching after I finished playing. I found my way into the Murray Bushrangers NAB league program and have coached the U16 side for 6 years. I was also fortunate to have some opportunities within the Vic Country Academy and coached the U16 Vic Country side at the National championships as well as the U17 Futures team and was an assistant coach with the U18 side at the Nationals.
TA: Just as important as footy, we also ensure that students’ academic needs are being met, providing them with a range of pathways and possibilities after graduating; can you tell us about your teaching experiences and if you have any philosophies that you feel shape your practice?
J: I have worked at GOTAFE for about 12 years in a range of teaching environments. I began teaching apprentices and also had experience teaching VCAL programs. I completed some further study in language, literacy and numeracy and specialised in this for a while working one-on-one and in small groups with students. This made me realise how important these fundamental skills in language, literacy and numeracy are for students to complete and progress towards their academic goals. It’s so important to have good fundamentals, just like in footy.
TA: As we’ve seen in the commencing years of our campuses in Essendon and Geelong, the first cohort build and shape the culture that often continues beyond their time at The Academy; what culture and values do you see your group fostering and what legacy are they hoping to achieve?
J: Our group is working really hard on their culture and we have discussed the importance of the legacy that this first intake will have. We have worked a lot on having a very supportive culture. We have seen a lot of trust between the students develop already and they do genuinely care for each other. We are seeing some leadership traits shining through from all of the students. The students are extremely lucky to have Cam Bishop driving the High Performance area and as well as his knowledge he also supports the students’ cultural goals. One of the exciting things about the Academy program is that the students will continue to explore and improve their culture and values with their regular sessions with Alex [Rance].
TA: The Academy represents a massive shift in how students can achieve in the classroom, on the field, and into their futures. Beyond its links to footy, what drew you to becoming a teacher at The Academy?
J: Having been involved in coaching I was a believer that there are so many similarities between a football environment and the classroom. The holistic approach of The Academy working with the students on improving their academic, physical and wellbeing creates a unique school environment that I wanted to be part of.
TA: Is there anything else you would like The Academy community to know about you?
J:I have a partner and two young girls and enjoy hanging out with them.
Thanks Justin for sharing this information with us. We can’t wait to see what the future for the commencing Wangaratta cohort holds with you as their captain.