It is our absolute pleasure to introduce you to Ceri (of @ourcreativeclassroom on Instagram). We ADORE Ceri's bubbly and friendly disposition - she is seriously just like a human ray of sunshine! Ceri is a Teacher / Creator / Writer / Editor / Podcaster / Mental Health Advocate / Lanyard Lover / Jack (or Jill) of all trades!
Ceri's very own podcast and magazine 'Wine With Teacher' are incredible and we highly recommend you check them out. We were also super excited to have Ceri as one of our very first guest lanyard designers last year. We recently sat back down with Ceri and had a little chat about what she's been up to in the two years since launching her business.
RO: Tell us a bit about yourself?
CERI: I am a colourful and creative teacher who started a teaching Instagram account in my third year of teaching as a way to share resources, find ideas and connect with other educators around the world. I shared whatever I wanted without any social media strategy or motive.
Each time I danced or lip-synced to music in the kitchen to get motivated before the school day, I shared it. Each time I laughed or cried about a heart-warming or funny moment with a student, I shared it. I kept receiving messages of support and kindness from other teachers who related to each experience. They appreciated my positive personality and honest reflections about the rollercoaster of highs and lows that comes with being a teacher. I spoke openly about daily wins, challenges and frustrations. And eventually, more than 42,000 teachers followed along to find out what was happening in my life.
Find my daily Instagram posts on Our Creative Classroom. RO: Was there a defining moment that made you realise your passion had moved outside of the classroom? Did something just click one day?
CERI: I finally earned a permanent position as a middle primary classroom teacher at the school that I loved - And I quit. It was my fifth year of teaching and I had developed severe anxiety. Did you know that on average, teachers spend more than 47.5 hours per week on school-related activities? How about that 30% to 50% of teachers are leaving the profession in the first five years? These statistics are from countries like Australia, United States and the United Kingdom.
I love teaching and making a difference in the lives of my students, but not at the expense of my mental health. After having a panic attack while at school, I came home and made a list of golden ideas. I still have that A4 page with almost 100 ideas for projects that I could pursue in 2020. It was in that moment that I decided to use my creative passions for income and my platform for advocacy of mental health, in particular teacher wellbeing.
This community of teachers has changed my life. They have listened, supported and cheered for every idea. They have downloaded educational resources from my website,Wine with Teacher, and joined myWine with Teacher Wellbeing Club. They have shared hundreds of photographs of the resources I’ve created being used in classrooms and teachers' homes all over Australia. It’s because of them that I can keep reaching for my dream goals!
RO: Can you tell us more about your passion for neurodiversity?
CERI: I received an unexpected late-in-life diagnosis of ADHD *Inattentive Type*. As a teacher, I felt embarrassed that I had missed these traits, which were overlooked as personality quirks. Since then I’ve been on a long learning journey to discover more about my strengths and struggles. I had to accept that despite all of my systems and accommodations already in place, there was no way to “fix” myself because I wasn’t broken. I just work differently from others - which has always been a significant strength of mine for most of my life, especially now as a teacher-creator-podcaster-editor-and-all-the-things.
I’m now working in an ambassador role for ADHD Australia, raising awareness for neurodiverse children and adults. I’m advocating for a teaching profession that differentiates not only for neurodivergent students - but also for the neurodivergent staff who work within the education system. Most of our issues can be resolved and supported through compassionate conversations. Learn more about ADHD via my infographic posts on my Instagram @ourcreativeclassroom. RO: Can you give us a little more insight into your podcast and magazine?
CERI: My podcast and magazine are both striving to build a supportive teaching community that values conversation and connection. This digital staffroom is a space where we can make a difference by openly sharing our collective experiences.
The podcast Wine with Teacher was created to help teachers unwind on a Friday afternoon. It has now evolved into a platform where I can elevate the voices of the diverse people who are drawn into teaching with a passion to make a difference. The first episodes were made up of four funny segments - Grinding My Gears, Toot or Boot, Resource Review, and Down the Rabbit Hole. Since then, Season 4 and 5 have been full of teacher interviews with some incredibly inspiring people like Gabbie Stroud (author of 'Teacher' and 'Dear Parents') and many of the teachers who I've met up with IRL (in real life) on my Golden Tour around Australia. So far, I've organised meets in SA, VIC, WA. Next on the list is TAS or NSW - depending on where I can get into during a worldwide pandemic.
The magazine Wine with Teacher was created to shine a light on the community of educators who come from all walks of life with an innate desire to help their students. It’s interesting to read about how each teacher brings their own set of skills, life experience and personality to the job. Every journey is different and there is so much that we can learn from each other. There have been ten issues published online so far, and nine available for purchase in hard copy. Each magazine is more than 45 pages worth of real teacher talk and real teacher life lessons. I feel incredibly proud to edit and produce such a meaningful magazine. We are uplifting, advocating, and empowering each other through storytelling.
RO: How is your tour going? What has been your favourite place to visit so far?
CERI: Ruby Olive is one of the many teacher-loving businesses who made this tour possible. I’ve had such deep and enriching conversations with teachers from all walks of life. So far, I’ve driven around South Australia and Victoria, as well as a quick trip over to Western Australia for the first time. Covid-19 isn’t getting in the way as many teachers are reaching out for virtual meet-ups via zoom. I listen in awe of the teachers who share their heart and soul on this tour. It’s hard to be vulnerable… but even more so with a person that you’re meeting for the first time. Teachers are currently facing some of the toughest working conditions, jumping through hoops due to last minute pandemic changes, while simultaneously caring for family and upskilling for new online apps.
See how I dodged the question there. You can’t expect me to choose a favourite destination. Haha.
RO: Tell us something we’d never guess about you?
CERI: I feel as though I’m an open book. You might be surprised to know that I struggle with misophonia. I cannot stand the sound of someone chewing, any noises involving nails, specific scraping sounds… The list goes on. For some reason, I can’t tune these sounds out and I usually react pretty obviously. Thankfully I have explained this to my loved ones and they all understand when I reach for my emergency noise-cancelling headphones.
RO: What (or who) is your biggest inspiration?
CERI: My fiancé and my parents are all currently working in schools. They are all lifelong learners who positively impact the lives of others, especially my own.
I am inspired by my mum’s passion and curiosity for finding and sharing new information. She is always learning, creating, sharing and helping others.
I am inspired by my dad’s empathy and compassion for others.
He is always understanding of challenges and working hard to advocate for others.
I am inspired by my partner’s knowledge and humour.
He can always fix a problem and explain it to anyone, no matter their level of understanding. He also makes me laugh every single day.
RO: One of your funniest moments from the classroom?
CERI: There are countless funny moments that teachers collect over time. Memories of inside jokes, silly facial expressions and childhood laughter. There is nothing more beautiful than a shared moment with a class of 30 children. My classroom is usually filled with music when students are working and during an art afternoon, the song from the previous year’s school concert came on. One by one, the students smiled and began to sing. Each child stared around in amusement as more and more students joined in. Soon the whole class were belting the tune to the Greatest Showman, with dance moves that hadn’t been dusted off in months. There is a buzz of pure joy when every child in the class agrees to push their differences aside and come together for a once-off performance.
This is the funniest and most treasured memory of my teaching career.
RO: We have something exciting in the works with Dahlia, your dog. We would love for you to introduce your dog to us all.
CERI: In 2015, I met the love of my life. My first love and soulmate Dahlia, a loving border collie puppy from a local farm. She was the runt of the litter and particularly needy. In other words, perfection. I scooped her into my arms and we hightailed home. I told my dad (who was driving) that I wasn’t sure what to name her. He asked me who my favourite author was.
“Roald Dahl.... Dahlia.”
This energetic puppy needed daily walks. It was during those walks that I met my second love and soulmate of 2015, my team-teaching colleague, Will. Just last year in 2020, Dahlia was the ring bearer at our colourful and magical pandemic wedding. For just a moment in time all of the state restrictions had been lifted. This meant that we could dance, sing, and be merry with our fifty closest family and friends.
Dahlia may be a mostly black border collie, but she is golden to us.
A huge big thank you to Ceri for chatting with us!