Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus are proud to congratulate this year’s recipients of the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards, presented in recognition of their outstanding work shaping a brighter future for their students and schools.
The past year has seen some of the most challenging times for teachers and students. Yet throughout all of the ups and downs and unexpected moments, these educators have continued to shine.
This year’s 12 Teaching Fellows come from schools right across Australia and a diverse range of backgrounds, each committed to creating a bright future for the next generation.
Wendy Bode, Deputy Principal of Thuringowa State High School in Townsville, is one of this year’s Award recipients. Seeing the North Queensland economy being transformed by investments in the defence, resources and manufacturing sectors, Wendy felt her students were at risk of being excluded from jobs in these technology-heavy industries.
In response, Wendy began engaging employers from mining, minerals, energy and construction sectors to take part in a collaborative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning project for students in Years 5 to 9, focused on emerging technologies, problem solving and critical and creative thinking.
Today, the program reaches more than 550 students from 42 of the region’s public schools via online networks and remote learning. At the same time she has introduced industry-led study modules on microplastics and recycling, biotechnology in healthcare, and engineering for construction in the tropics, creating opportunities for students that they would never have received if not for passionate and committed teachers.
Jessica Chesterfield, of Hymba Yumba Independent School in Queensland, noticed students were disengaged returning to school after the pandemic. Jessica saw an opportunity to unite the school, which offers education grounded in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, for a collaborative art initiative in which stories, knowledge, and skills were shared around the creation story.
The project tapped into the cultural purpose of art – shared with Jessica by supportive parents, First Nations artists and local Elders’ – and she was “awestruck” by the willingness of older students to mentor younger ones, and by improved attendance and reduction in behavioural issues.
Now she is working with colleagues to embed art practice and the shared learning approach across the school’s curriculum.
At James Fallon High School in New South Wales, principal Jennifer Parrett sees the school as a microcosm of Australia’s migration history. Alongside a growing number of First Nations students in rural Albury in southern NSW are the children of successive waves of migration from Europe and central, south east and south Asia. Increasingly, they are being joined by new arrivals from conflict-ridden regions in Africa and the middle East, often via years in a refugee camp.
She responded to the demographic shift by initiating changes to support student wellbeing and engagement first and foremost. This has included putting all 60 teachers through training in trauma-informed practice, to help them understand how traumatic experiences can lead to behavioural issues, and to learn strategies to support students without escalating their distress.
Jennifer is now commissioning a Wellbeing Hub, with low-key meeting rooms and time-out spaces where students can decompress without getting a suspension.
It’s just another example of outstanding educators striving to create a better future for their students, creating real opportunities by understanding their needs and developing the necessary solutions to overcome challenges.
At Yirrkala School, a bilingual school in North East Arnhem Land, senior secondary teacher Daniel Yore is now demonstrating – spectacularly - how education can change life trajectories.
Twenty Yirrkala students are on track to graduate Year 12 across 2020 – 2021– more than the annual average for all remote schools in the Northern Territory combined – thanks to a “both ways” curriculum, integrating mainstream subjects with traditional knowledge, language and cultural practices of the Yolngu people.
“The key”, Daniel said, “is respect”. He has worked since 2017 with local Elders and community organisations to develop the program, which supports English learning for students whose first language is Yolngu, develops mathematical awareness through studying the natural environment, and extends conceptual skills by relating western thinking to local kinship systems and spatial aspects of Country.
These are just some of the inspiring stories of this year’s inspiring Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award recipients. To read more and see all of this year’s outstanding Teaching Fellows, visit teachingawards.com.au