When the secondary school at Dinner Plain closed after the 2017 winter it was unknown what schooling options there would be for teens from 7th grade and beyond the following season.
However, it didn’t take long for a fix with the Alpine Athletes Academy initiated the following year after concern from families and members of the tight-knit Hotham community were heard.
Having already spent two years teaching at Dinner Plain primary and fully understanding the need for an educational facility for secondary-age kids, Ashleigh Greaves established AAA.
From 14 students in year one, there are 22 students attending AAA this winter which is being run out of the two rooms in the Arlberg after leasing a space at The Snowbird in 2018.
“Many families choose to relocate and live on the mountain for the duration of winter simply to enjoy skiing and the outdoors or so kids can continue with their elite pursuits,” Ashleigh said.
“Those kids deserve their snow sport opportunities, and AAA allows them to do that without having to sacrifice academic needs or spend unreasonable amounts of time commuting each week.”
Not just for winter sport athletes, AAA also welcomes non-athletes and others who live at the resort year-round or in remote towns nearby.
Operating for 10 weeks for the duration of term 3, AAA runs Monday to Thursday with individuals signing up to a morning or afternoon session which the attend for four hours a day.
With most students involved in programs such as Mt Hotham Race Squad, Hotham Free Ski and Hotham Snowboarders Inc, which session they chose is usually determined by their training.
Ashleigh facilitates the students’ work and is in constant communication with each individual student’s school-of-origin as work for completion is sent back and forth and ticked off.
The former ski instructor is more than well versed to provide individualised tuition too with a Bachelor of Health and Physical Education (Secondary) and Master of Education specialising in English and Sciences, while also being a certified International Baccalaureate teacher.
“We cut the four hours into four 50-minute sessions with two 10-minute breaks and longer 20-minute break with students working on four subjects a day and each subject every second day,” Ashleigh said.
“Four hours a day, for four days does limit things, but in saying that I feel the kids do get more done up here because they’re not moving between classes or participating in classes like PE.
“I think the kids also recognise that if they get their work done, they can spend more time on the slopes, and it means their parents and school are likely to let them continue this form of study.”
Ashleigh is assisted on most Monday’s by Angela Stephens and Simon Gagnon who offers French tuition.
Angela has more than 20 years teaching experience in Victoria while Simon being of a French-Canadian background is a great source to have for those students learning the language.
While Dinner Plain Primary School, an annex of Bright P12 College remains, Ashleigh is delighted that she has been able to offer distance education for older students, in a small classroom setting.
“I’m from Perth and grew up doing calisthenics at a national level so I understand what it’s like for these kids who are training five or six days a week,” she said.
“We bring students from various grades and schools together and allow them to not only keep pace with their cohort but excel, before seamlessly transitioning back to their school in term 4.