Australian Woman Rises From Poverty to Win Teacher of the Year


Adeline Monaghan lives in Port Headland in Western Australia. An Australian aboriginal by birth, she lived in an aboriginal community to escape domestic violence but stated that this was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

In the community, there were drugs, alcohol, and more domestic violence but there were no other options at the time. She lived, along with her five children, in a small tin hut with only two bedrooms. Her home became a “safe house” for many young mums and their children trying to escape their own abuse. Money was scarce as she tried to live on welfare payments. To make ends meet, she started to teach the ladies of the community how to sew because the community paid for these classes. After a few months the funding for that project was expiring and so she was worried how she would support herself and her five children.

A part-time teacher assistant position was advertised at the local school, so she sent in an application on a piece of paper from a notebook to the school. To her surprise, she was given the job. Soon she moved away from the community into the Port Headland township.

“Since then,” she said, “my life changed. I met two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who knocked on my door. I gave them a hard time, but they were persistent.”

Adeline joined the Church in 2001. The hardest part for her was to pay tithing.

She said her initial reaction was, “what! I’m a single Mum working part-time. I can barely make ends meet and you want me to pay tithing?”  She put her trust in the Lord that He would provide. She said, “everything seemed to be cheaper or on special when I went to do my grocery shopping. I knew the Lord was on my side and he was going to ensure he would bless me tenfold.”

The school then offered her full-time employment. This surprised her because she is a quiet, shy person who did not believe in herself and her abilities to become self-reliant. Her native language was aboriginal English and she had difficulty speaking standard English at school. At Church, the branch president, Nathan Page, spoke about his study of engineering. His story impressed her and instilled in her the desire to learn and to improve herself.

The northern branches held a conference at Karratha. This meant that she would have to travel 200km to be there with her five children. She worried how she would be able to travel to the conference and how she could cover the cost. Again, she reported, the Lord provided by the branch organizing a bus to travel to the conference with church members being billeted with families during the conference. The Lord also provided the Clarke family. Knowing that she worked in a school, Brother Clarke gave her a book entitled “Teaching: No Greater Call”. She read the book and was then encouraged by President Page and her colleagues at school to study.

She started with a Certificate III in education. She found it very fulfilling but rewarding and so went on to do a Certificate IV and then a Diploma in Education. With each certificate she was given a pay rise and so she could see the Lord was blessing her. She had gone from working part-time at the school to now full-time. But that was not the end of her journey. She did not have confidence in herself and with limited English she felt overwhelmed. In fact, up until then, she had continued to receive welfare payments to ensure she had enough to provide for her family.

The Deputy Principal at the school saw her potential and encouraged her to become a teacher. Putting her faith and trust in the Lord she started a Bachelor of Education Degree from Notre Dame University. The university gave on-going assistance on how to study and also provided basic courses on how to speak and read standard English. She was invited to do a cadetship (like a scholarship) that assisted her with her work and study as well as enhanced her financial position. External studies required her to have a computer which she could not afford. Her children decided that they would help and washed cars to provide enough money for her to purchase the computer. After four years she graduated with a teaching degree and secured a position as a teacher at the South Headland Primary School. She has now been teaching at the school for nine years.

In 2015 she received the Western Australia Premier’s Primary Teacher of the Year Award. Recently she was asked by the Principal if she would be interested in a leadership role within the school. She is now studying to become a principal of a Primary School.

She says the following about her journey: “I have continually prayed for guidance and the Spirit has helped me find peace and joy that I have shared with my family and friends.”

Her children say, “ever since you joined the church your whole life has changed. Who would have ever thought you would become a teacher, let alone the teacher of the year?”

Prayer, faith, and living the gospel principles, along with her persistence and hard work, have helped her become self-reliant in both spiritual and temporal aspects of her life. Self-reliance is believing you are a child of God and that He will help you as long as you do all you can do.