Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
My interest in education really stems from a love of learning that was nurtured throughout primary and secondary school. I had many wonderful teachers and applied, at 17 years of age, for a DoE Preservice Scholarship for English Teaching. I ticked the ‘anywhere in the state’ option on the scholarship form and at the conclusion of my studies was placed at Seven Hills High School. It was a big move from home (North Haven on the Mid North Coast) and where I had been studying, at the University of New England in Armidale, but the community I found at SHHS really supported my professional growth and once I was there I never looked back. I worked for several years at SHHS before moving to Glenmore Park High School where I worked as a classroom teacher before gaining a promotion to Head Teacher English. After three years in the role I took some long service leave to partake in a week-long internship at Nancie Atwell’s school – the Center for Teaching and Learning which reinforced everything I believe in about teaching – the power of student choice, the impact of the explicit teaching of reading and writing skills, how opportunities to engage with quality literature can enrich lives, and the importance of celebrating student success. During my leave, I applied for a role in the corporate sector of the Department of Education and was appointed as Teacher Quality Advisor in Term 2. This role is about supporting teachers with their accreditation and providing quality, research-based professional learning.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I have always found something new and inspiring to focus on – early on in my career I focused on designing effective lessons and developing my judgement as to what I needed to provide in order for my students to improve. I was then offered a Year Adviser role which provided great insight into the ways student achievement is impacted by their social milieu and family events. At Glenmore Park High School, I continued the Year Adviser role and was also fortunate enough to be involved in a Middle Schools Program as well as literacy and writing initiatives – all which gave me an opportunity to learn about what makes schools effective and hone my skills to support positive change in the process.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
I think one of the biggest rewards is the positive impact an educator can have on a students’ life. Some students are ready for success at school but many don’t know any and it is this opportunity to share knowledge and provide support with skill development that really does have an impact on lives. Technology has definitely changed the landscape of education so one of the challenges is ensuring our students can be active and engaged citizens who have the skills and confidence to chase their dreams whilst also maintaining their digital footprint in a responsible manner. I think maintaining a focus on educational success, positive connections between students and their school, as well as considering what is happening in the world can make an educator’s job a bit of a balancing act at times.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
If I could change anything it would be to give teachers more time to focus on preparing engaging lessons, to team teach, to collaborate with colleagues. Teachers, somehow, find the time to do all of these things already but I can only see positives when I consider how much stronger professional relationships would be with more time to invest in them. From all the research I have read and from my experience of working in and with schools, it seems that finding enough time to focus on the aspects you’re passionate about as well as the accountability measures required can be tricky.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
In the words of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s character Anne Shirley – ‘It’s not what the world holds for you. It’s what you bring to it,’ contributing to a sense of community, via social media or face to face, is more important than ever. As the education professional grows, as the world continues to change, it is only through collaboration and common goals that we can hope to continue pushing forward with the work that we do. I am excited to host the EduTweedOz account and hope to discuss aspects of Teacher Accreditation, considerations of what preservice and beginning teachers need, and some readings I am working through on writing and literacy instruction.