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Inspiring others to find their inner ‘powers’

May 30, 2021

It would be wonderful to see schools recognising and implementing strategies to support teachers with multiple sclerosis (MS), so they can stay as valued members of the workforce, said North Curl Curl Public School teacher Maxine Gourley.

Pride and the risk of being targeted often prevent teachers from being more candid and asking for some assistance, she said.

Maxine, who was diagnosed with MS, in her early 40s, after experiencing a number of symptoms, including pins and needles in her hands and legs, has found her school supportive in practical ways.

“Heat and stress are the major triggers for me,” she said. Aspects of my working life can prove tricky [such as] playground duty on very hot days and the very busy face-to-face demands required when teaching kindergarten.”

Maxine is relieved of playground duty on hot days but she understands this is not the case in all workplaces.

As an invisible illness, it can often be difficult to get a diagnosis and to find the right treatment for MS. Maxine advises anyone living with MS to “seek out a neurologist who you feel understands and empathises with you”.

“This took a long time [for me], however, I landed on the most amazing nationally recognised neurologist and specialist in MS, Dr John Parratt who has effectively changed my life.”

She also advises trying to “identify what motivates you and brings joy; find your 'power'.

My 'power' is my love for teaching and guiding students emotionally, socially and academically.

This power began in 1985 when Maxine started her career in Narrabri. Now settled on the Northern Beaches, she does not let MS get in the way of her teaching, although she acknowledges how challenging it can be: “MS impacts me almost daily. As I am a very busy person, I can become fatigued easily.”

Today, 30 May, communities all over the world come together to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis (MS), an auto-immune disease of the central nervous system that affects around 25,000 people in Australia alone.

She hopes that events such as World MS Day will create a shift in attitudes towards the condition.

“As an invisible disease, it would be powerful for people to be mindful that symptoms are not obvious and can be impacting the MS person on a daily basis,” she said.

“Empathy and understanding with all people are so necessary, especially now, regardless of any disability. Principals and executive in schools can support teachers and students with MS simply by being caring and offering support where needed.”

For more information, including resources on living with MS, visit the MS Australia website at msaustralia.org.au.

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Authorised by Maxine Sharkey, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

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© New South Wales Teachers Federation. All Rights Reserved.

Authorised by Maxine Sharkey, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

Privacy Policy