Megan left her career in international and community development in 2010 when her 10-year-old son became critically ill, and his teenage sister was struggling with the way life had changed. As Megan witnessed her son’s painful and long separation from his friends and learning, she made a commitment to changing the way schools see their responsibility to kids facing serious illness. The barriers Megan encountered in trying to keep her son connected to his school fuel this commitment, as does an appreciation of the basic rights of access, equity and education for all. She believes that learning and belonging offer us dignity, now, and hope in a future. Megan is passionate about seeing the experience of families and the voice of sick kids move to the forefront in shaping ways for continuous school connection. She hopes for the possibility of joining this to the collective wisdom of educators and health professionals for partnerships that make a difference in the lives of sick kids. Megan is the co-author of Australian-first research, School Connection for Seriously Sick Kids : Who Are They, How Do We Know What Works, and Whose Job Is It? She is a 2016 Churchill Fellow for study on overseas education system models of maintaining school connection for these students.
Megan comes to MissingSchool through her lived experiences as a parent of young people with chronic and terminal illness, and as a classroom teacher. While her children were in high school, Megan realised that her family’s experiences of the educational, social and emotional impacts of missing school could not possibly be happening in isolation. This realisation drove her to complete a Masters in Inclusive Education, and to research her PhD in the area. That research investigates the impact of video conferencing on motivation and engagement for students with chronic illness. Megan has taught in mainstream secondary educational settings and in Teacher Education at her local university, and in her local Hospital School. Megan passionately believes that connection to school is critical for all children and young people, and that access to the classroom for those battling serious illness is crucial in maintaining that connection. Megan is Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth lead researcher on education and health sector practice for school connection for seriously sick kids. This research is the result of MissingSchool's advocacy and is the first ever Australian Government-funded study on this subject.
Belinda (Bin) started her career in nursing, caring for complex needs of oncology patients and their families. Her work now spans more than 30 years and includes marketing, corporate sponsorship, partnership and business development, fundraising, communications and event management for local, national and international not-for-profits. Her public service extends to preselection candidacy for federal elections in 2001 and 2004. Bin has held roles at Cancer Council of NSW, Red Cross (ACT) and as a Red Cross National Senior Executive. She led the Australian Red Cross to national win in 2012 for its marketing campaign on “PaidAid Workplace Giving”. As a volunteer, Bin has chaired the Fundraising Committee for Technical Aids for Disabled, ACT and supported humanitarian work in Timor-Leste and Vanuatu. Bin will apply her decades-long knowhow in MissingSchool to mobilising greater school support for kids with serious illness, a desire fuelled in part by family experience.
Jenny is the parent of a survivor of childhood cancer and has over 35 years of diverse experience as an educator. Her work has spanned Independent, Catholic and State schools as well as TAFE and University levels. As the recipient of a Premier’s Teachers Scholarship her research focused on school strategies to support the learning of students with serious medical conditions. Jenny’s work in this field has been published in various contexts and presented at Regional Forums, Conferences and School Professional Development events. Jenny works as a voluntary advocate in her specialty area in addition to running her own business as a private education consultant. She served four years on the National Board of Ronald McDonald House Charities and resigned this role in late 2017.
Lizzie holds a corporate strategy (mapping, design and delivery) and change management consultancy background in people, organisation/process, and technology. She has worked across large corporate teams in the European, Australian and New Zealand markets within the banking, financial services, insurance, media, IT&T and government sectors. She is a systems thinker and risk practice specialist who has applied her skills and capabilities to supporting her young daughter who was diagnosed with a rare, previously untreatable, cancer on the eve of starting school. Lizzie has first-hand understanding of the system complexities that families navigate in medical and education advocacy for sick children and their siblings, and is committed through MissingSchool to ensuring that families get information, connections and coordinated support for keeping sick kids connected to their schools, in particular through telepresence robot technology.
Hugh is drawing on his experience in having supported his child through a life-threatening illness, and adding honours and postgraduate studies in law and governance to serve the objectives of MissingSchool. Inherent in Hugh’s personal experience is an understanding of the multiple burdens and stresses faced by families and carers in dealing with the serious medical circumstances of their child. In addition to the critical illness, there is care of the sick child’s siblings, grief and trauma, strain on relationships, geographic relocation, financial hardship, personal health issues, and so on. He sees a continuing relationship with the school community as critical to maintaining some kind of “normal” for kids and families in circumstances of serious illness. Hugh believes that we can achieve better outcomes if everyone upholds their part.
Coming from a family of educators, it was inevitable that Sarah would be engaged in the education sector eventually. Her role on MissingSchool’s telepresence robot pilot brings together her professional background in complex international program management, her desire to see problems solved through systems change, her wonder at the technological age we live in, and her foundational belief that human connection has the power to change lives. Sarah has worked on Australian government aid projects, a local Indonesian NGO, an Indonesian university institution, and as an independent consultant and trainer. She’s also a cofounder of a tech startup in the international aid and development space, an unlikely turn of events for a social scientist who prefers words to numbers. Passionate about the value of schools and education, Sarah is eager to apply her skills to the use of telepresence robots for better connection and learning opportunities for seriously sick kids.
Mia is studying Medical Science, hoping to pursue paediatric medicine or medical research. She was drawn to MissingSchool through her career aspirations and personal experience. When Mia was 13 her brother became critically ill. While supporting her brother, she witnesses the social, physical and emotional challenges he faced, and faced some of her own. She was in-between schools, attending both her high school and hospital school, eventually moving to a school close to her brother’s treatment. Mia was greatly affected by watching her brother experience the difficulties of missing school. In her medical career she hopes to create awareness of the social, emotional and mental consequences of illness that can often be overlooked. Mia plays an administrative role within MissingSchool, helping with campaigns, social media and odd jobs. She does this in the hope that even the smallest contribution can help create greater connection to school for sick kids.
Cathy has two children, her younger child is a survivor of childhood cancer. Cathy became interested in learning issues resulting from cancer therapy, after her son had a cord blood transplant in 2005 and a second transplant in 2010 for relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukeamia. After her son’s first transplant Cathy joined a US listserv for cancer parents and became more aware of the lack of services for children in the Australian setting. Cathy met Gina and Megan as their children were treated at the same centre in Sydney. The three decided to form MissingSchool in 2012, recognising that there was no clear pathway or voice for parents advocating for their child’s need for educational support and connection. Cathy is the co-author of Australian-first research, School Connection for Seriously Sick Kids : Who Are They, How Do We Know What Works, and Whose Job Is It?
Gina’s background is in science management, but her interest turned to teaching after her children started school. In 2008, Gina’s son was diagnosed with a critical and life-threatening illness which kept him in and out of hospital – and out of school – for around 18 months. During this period, although she was no longer working, Gina preserved her sanity by maintaining her volunteer involvement in her children’s classrooms. When her son’s health stabilised, she made a career change and moved full-time into education. She now works as a classroom teacher, and is firmly committed to ensuring that the needs of all students are met, even when they can not attend school. Gina is proud to be a founding member of MissingSchool, but dreams of a day when all kids with serious health conditions receive full support from their schools as a matter of course and the Association can be wound up. Gina is the co-author of Australian-first research, School Connection for Seriously Sick Kids : Who Are They, How Do We Know What Works, and Whose Job Is It?