Career

Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G

Jackson Elliott

Life in the discomfort zone


Teaching has opened many doors for Jackson Elliott. But there was one opportunity he never saw coming.

As an elite runner, teacher and athletics coach for the Suns, Jackson likes to push his limits. He believes finding that ‘discomfort zone’ is where the good things happen, and it’s a mantra that he embraces in all things.

Jackson, an ACU education graduate, is Year 7 coordinator at The Southport School (TSS). As well as mentoring the teens at school, they also feature prominently in his running club, Gold Coast Run Co. 

Having won a string of races during his elite career, including the 2015 Bridge to Brisbane, Jackson developed the running club as a vehicle to pass on his knowledge. 

“I’m about developing people. If I can make an impact by sparking a life-long love of running, then that’s what I want to do,” he said. 

Making a difference

Sharing his willingness to dive into the unfamiliar, Jackson has taken his running club on two trips to Kenya, Africa. It was during the first trip they were moved by the stories of pupils in Africa who often complained of sore bellies from not having eaten for days.

It was then Jackson and his colleague Andrew, co-founder of the running club, came up with an idea. 

They wanted to act to help feed the hungry children.

Happy Kenyan children

After fundraising back home in Australia, they returned with some teenaged runners. Brick by brick, they have re-built a kitchen at Irigithathi Primary School, on the foothills of Mt Kenya.

They worked with hand tools beside local labourers to dig foundations and add capacity to the school’s besser-block kitchen which was previously little more than an open fireplace.

“It’s a really poor region, in extreme drought and in need of respite,” Jackson said. “On our last visit there in 2017 we saw how kids not much younger than our squad arrived at school hungry.”

A life-changing experience

Seeing children of a similar age remain optimistic while coping with adversity beyond the comprehension of most Australians was a life-changing experience for the TSS students. 

“We were amazed at how they maintained such zeal. We hope we can make some meaningful difference in their lives.”

Jackson said the exposure to a different culture has helped to foster social responsibility and develop global awareness and resilience.

“Some of the kids digest it immediately. They’re just blown away by how the difference is magnified,” he said. “Others take a little while for it to sink in. We get them to write down their reflections when we get home and they’re really powerful.

“Gratitude is one of the big themes. After the trip they tend not to complain about things like eating the same thing two nights in a row.”

Jackson’s running club has now completed two trips to Africa. The Kenyan experiences concluded with stints in Iten, the high-altitude training base for the world’s greatest concentration of running champions, including marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge.

There, at 2,400 metres above sea level, they trained with the best and sampled what life and learning is like for students at Iten’s St Patrick’s secondary school. 

An unexpected outcome

Jackson never imagined a teaching career would take him on such a journey when he commenced an undergraduate degree at ACU more than a decade ago.

Kenyan school children

Iten’s St Patrick’s secondary school.

He expected it would be a fulfilling job. What he didn’t see coming were the doors it would open to coaching and promoting the benefits of physical activity.

Teaching and coaching are close allies, and Jackson combines the two, whether assisting at the Suns or steering nationally ranked runners at TSS or his running club.

“I’m fortunate to have spent a lot of time in sport and had a lot of help along the way. I’m motivated to share that with other people and I do that through the vehicle of running,” he said.

“I view teaching and coaching as intertwined. I don’t have to take one hat off and put on another.

“Whether it’s running or maths, you want to be the best you can be.”

Interesting in a career in teaching? Explore our education degrees

Related stories

Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G