1. How long have you worked at St Hilda’s School and what inspired you to become a teacher?

This is my second year of teaching at St Hilda’s School. Visiting my family on the Gold Coast over the years and driving down High Street, I would often look at the beautiful grounds of St Hilda’s School and contemplate joining the community one day in the future. Living in Sydney with my husband and daughter, the pandemic isolation made us rethink priorities in life, and we decided to move to the Gold Coast for the start of the 2022 school year. Interestingly, the timing could not have been better, as a role opened up at St Hilda’s School, so of course, I had to apply.

Two decades ago, during my time as a graphic designer in an office, I found myself contemplating the purpose and meaning of life, likely influenced by the numerous volumes of philosophy books I was reading in my spare time. Driven by a desire to discover my true purpose and contribute to my local community, I decided to volunteer for The Salvation Army and my local public school. It was at the school where a persistent thought took root - "What if teaching is where I am truly meant to be?" This idea stayed with me, and I couldn't shake it. The students and the Leichhardt Public School community inspired me to pursue a further university degree and continue my journey in contributing to the education of young people. Today, as an educator, I often ask my students to imagine waking up every morning and embarking on a day filled with a sense of purpose, worth, and meaning. For me, that is exactly what teaching represents - a deeply fulfilling vocation that brings me joy and allows me to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others.

2. What do you love most about your job?

Every day is a new adventure. It is also the greatest privilege and responsibility. I love seeing the “A ha!” moments in the classroom, where students make links with their prior knowledge, to a brand-new idea. Similarly, I really enjoy working with colleagues who bring such a range of expertise and specialisation in subject areas. Discussing with them what best pedagogical practice looks like, how we might continue to ignite the love of learning in every student, and how we can support the young people in our care to consider their purpose in the world, is such an energising imperative.

3. What are your hobbies and interests outside of teaching?

Over the years, I have been contributing to a Partners in Print Exchange group. It is a network of printmakers around Australia who contribute to a yearly edition of prints. These are collated into print portfolios that are not only issued to the participating artists but are also contributed to the collections of some of the most reputable art institutions around the world. Before studying fine arts, I was on a physics path with a particular interest in astronomy. Astronomy is a hobby which I now pursue for leisure, and enjoyed being a regular visitor to the Mount Stromlo Observatory in the ACT and the Sydney Observatory. Next year, I am hoping to start my PhD in Business and Education, so I am currently working on refining my thesis question.

4. What inspires and motivates you day-to-day?

No matter what challenges a day brings, I remind myself of the myriad of things I am grateful for. Whilst it may be a seemingly simple thing, at the end of each day, I jot down three things I am grateful for. This reflection keeps me grounded and acts as a moral compass, particularly during challenging times. A pattern that I notice is that my family is my greatest source of joy and inspiration.

5. What specific aspects of St Hilda’s stand out to you as unique compared to your previous teaching experiences?

Arriving to St Hilda’s School, I was so impressed with the way the students welcome new members of the community with openness, love and compassion. I noticed the way the students look out for their peers, help new students, stop to check in on someone who may not be feeling okay, and are genuinely happy to be here. Last year, one of the highlights for me as a new teacher, was to hear students’ perspectives in Soap Box. Not only were the students feeling safe in a trusted environment to stand up and share with their peers and teachers, but they were also coached by their teachers to consider what an informed perspective requires.

6. For those that are not familiar with the Learning and Teaching space, what are your priorities and goals for the year? Explain the importance of interconnectivity between departments for optimised learning.

Last year saw the development of our Learning and Teaching Framework, St Hilda’s Learning. The Framework provides a pedagogical foundation for teachers to design high quality instruction. It is designed for students to be equipped with the shared language and strategies for learning to learn. The Framework is informed by the taxonomy of learning by Robert Marzano and John Kendall (2007) which considers the cognitive, metacognitive and relational (self-regulatory) systems. Contextualising the pedagogical approach with our students at the centre, we found a close link between the elements Marzano’s taxonomy and Professor Guy Claxton’s Building Learning Power (2011) model. We believe that each of our students should have the opportunity to grow their learning capacity and see learning as a progress. Our teaching strategies are informed John Hattie’s Visible Learning approach (Hattie and Yates, 2013), Barak Rosenshine’s instructional principles, and Dylan Wiliam’s formative assessment stance.

Putting our framework into practice, our intention is to develop a cohesive approach across all classrooms, so that we can share with greater clarity what learning and teaching look like in our school. Our teachers, as expert practitioners are working towards designing learning through a cyclic process that involves:

  • Clear learning intentions;
  • Achievable success criteria for every student;
  • Effective feedback between students and teachers; and
  • Safe and optimal classroom climate.

Our students are encouraged to articulate innovative thinking, develop their capacity to be resourceful, and engage productively in collegial dialogue and relationships with peers, teachers, and wider school community. We recognise that success is defined by both, academic strengths and learning dispositions (Claxton, 2007). These require our students to engage in learning with an adaptable mindset in order to make informed and effective adjustments when faced with any uncertainties (Martin, Nejad, Colmar & Liem, 2013). With current research demonstrating the link between adaptability and collegiality (Holliman, Waldeck, Jay, Murphy, Atkinson, Collie & Martin, 2021), our learning and teaching framework ensures effective wellbeing outcomes for our students. In living our School’s motto Non Nobis Solum, our students are growing as intellectually humble young women who are resilient and equipped to serve and shape the world.

This year, we are particularly focusing on becoming familiar with our language of learning and considering the impact our teaching strategies are having on student learning.

This article was produced from St Hilda's Spirit Magazine 2023.