I retrained as a teacher mid-career after working in the book industry and as a journalist. English teaching is the flip-side of those coins and I completely romanticised it thanks to Mr Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’ and Mr Holland in ‘Mr Holland’s Opus’. I’m proud to say I’ve had those moments (no students on desks of course) – they are the gifts that keep on giving. I had the most wonderful public education and those teachers completely inspired me. I have only ever wanted to work in public education. I won a scholarship to teach English in south-west Sydney with the NSW Department of Education, which was fantastic because I knew at the end of my studies that I would have a permanent position. Since then I’ve worked on secondments for the Department – recently with teach NSW in the areas of pre-service teacher support and career advice in STEM teaching (ironic for an English teacher); and now I work at The Arts Unit with the NSW Department of Education, looking after the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge. I work alongside incredibly dedicated teachers running arts programs. I also write books for children –‘Ella and Olivia’ and ‘Frankie Fox, Girl Spy’ – among others, so it’s basically the dream job.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I am completely driven by equity in education, and by finding ways to bring opportunities to all students across our state. Along the way I’ve met so many inspirational teachers who have enlightened me about their teaching practice in other subject areas and with other age groups. Teachers are truly life-long learners. In my current role I get to work with great teachers who are implementing incredible literacy and reading programs at their schools and to absorb their strategic thinking and capacity-building in their regions. Technology, innovation and the ability to be creative are also drivers for change. The Challenge is in its 15th year and we are ramping it up with loads of virtual author events, school events – technology is very much at the core of the role.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
Teachers are in elite company, because we know what it is like to be genuinely fulfilled by our work. The challenges are many and myriad and they always will be. I’m particularly concerned about new teachers and the high rate of attrition. We lose them before we know it and before they can make their mark. We need to think strategically about how we can support new teachers, particularly in their first years out.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
Implement the Gonski reforms. Pay teachers more. Get rid of standardised testing. Make reading for pleasure a compulsory part of every school’s day.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
My teaching eyes were opened when I began using twitter as a learning and networking tool. While working with pre-service teachers finishing their university studies, I implored them to join twitter and underscored how important social media is in developing their networks and in particular how useful threads like #edutweetoz are. I have met loads of colleagues through twitter who I now work with in a professional capacity. The movers and shakers in our profession are on twitter. The conversation is happening right here. So I want to hear from you about books/reading/literacy strategies!
This week is Book Week
Let’s share the excitement! Tell me what you’re doing to celebrate books, reading and authors at your school! Are you working on a school wide literacy program? Is it working? What changes have you observed? Have you had an author visit? What impact has that had? What are you doing in your library? How important is your librarian’s role in your school? Could you be doing more? Let’s share creative ideas for reading? Let’s share resources. Let’s talk about our favourite books – personally – and to use in the classroom. This week is all about the impact of reading on leisure and pleasure. Let’s talk about Reading Challenges!