ECEC professionals shine in Queensland’s TEACHX Awards
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals have been well represented in this year’s TEACHX Awards, which celebrate the outstanding contributions of teachers in Queensland.
Every year, teachers from across Queensland’s schooling sectors and ECEC services are nominated to share their stories and inspire colleagues, something which is deeply valued by award organisers the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT).
Commencing in 2009, the awards exemplify the significant contribution to schools and early childhood communities across Queensland, attracting thousands of nominations for registered teachers who have achieved exceptional outcomes.
The Dr Joe McCorley OAM Outstanding Contribution to School Community Award – Judith Terkelsen, Goodstart Early Learning Pialba
Ms Terkelsen’s collaborative work with the local community delivers important educational services for children under her care. Through a partnership with Royal Far West’s allied health specialists she has enabled access to specialist services for 31 children and their families which allows them to access onsite screening and telehealth services with professionals, including speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and clinical psychologists.
Teaching for the past 27 years, Ms Terkelsen’s previous connections on Bundjalung Country in southern Queensland and northern NSW led her to adopt a Butchulla Country Elder who is also an artist and teacher. The kindergarten students’ learning has included the Three Butchulla Lores, which have been shared and explained by the Elder. Ms Terkelsen has expanded on children’s literacy and numeracy learning in a culturally respectful way, through inclusion of various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources. The partnership has also inspired art projects, including children’s interpretations of Caring for Country and Australia’s endangered animals.
Another partnership she has introduced is with the local Men’s Shed. One of their projects has involved students helping build garden beds for native grasses, bush tucker, vegetables, and herb gardens. She has also implemented a transition to school program in vital partnership with nine local schools. This includes planned conversations with families and school teams and visits from the schools to the kindergarten, with a focus on continuity of learning and important connections for children transitioning to prep. Each child has a transition to school action plan with identified strengths, interests, needs and strategies.
Ms Terkelsen’s community and educational work across northern NSW and Queensland has been recognised with several esteemed awards, including a Rotary Foundation of Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow in 2004 and a Medal of the Order of Australia General Division in 2011.
Her teaching is inspired by the quote, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ because expanding the ‘village’ offers opportunities for a great breadth of learning and positive community connections. She says her most satisfying accomplishments have been building on deeper community connections, understanding Aboriginal ways of knowing, and being in partnership with the adopted Butchulla Elder and families. This has supported the children in her care to build respect for the environment in which they live, grow, play, and learn.
Excellence in Teaching – Rebecca (Bec) Samios, Barkly Highway State School
Ms Samios’ passion for Early Years education has inspired her colleagues at Barkly Highway State School to embark on their own Age Appropriate Pedagogy (AAP) journeys, hosting educators from the wider community and sharing her expertise in creating learning spaces that accommodate different learning styles to empower every student to succeed.
Her ‘Maths Day’ fast became a student favourite, with one such day based around saving their principal who ‘went missing’ and could only be saved through the student’s mathematics skills. Subsequent days have morphed into a cross-curricular day of learning with themes of board games, Around the World, and Pirates.
“The chance to exercise creativity, witness progress, build meaningful relationships, and engage in lifelong learning is what makes teaching an incredibly fulfilling career choice”, she said.
In response to regional cultural priorities, Ms Samios collaborated with her students, local Aboriginal Elders, and other community leaders to begin co-designing a Bush Tucker Garden, an outdoor learning space that aims to not only enhance First Nations’ students but educate students about diversity and respect for different cultures.
“Students gain a deeper understanding of where their food comes from and the importance of sustainable farming practices. We are proud to grow a variety of delicious and nutritious produce, with our farm-to-table initiative aiming to promote healthy eating habits.”
Ms Samios says that there is no greater joy than seeing student’s progress through their educational journeys, “from witnessing that “aha” moment to celebrating their achievements, having a front-row seat to witness the growth and success of students gets me through the classroom door each day!”
Outstanding Contribution to Teaching – Natalie Wells, Heights College Rockhampton
Ms Wells is an experienced kindergarten teacher who is passionate about investing in the next generation of early childhood educators. Working at Heights College in Rockhampton for the last five years, her long career in regional early childhood education began 21 years ago. Over this time, she has provided opportunities for hundreds of student teachers from high schools, TAFE, and universities to learn and grow from her influence and guidance.
Her nurturing and caring learning environments have allowed student teachers to consider the whole growth of children. She has been described as inspirational as she models the genuine warmth, care and compassion required for the job. She will soon embark on a two-year trailblazing traineeship with Year Ten students completing their early childhood education certificates, which is a first for Heights College, and for Ms Wells.
In addition to running quality kindergarten programs, she has invested her time and effort in children’s community events like Romp in the Park and Messy Play Days, providing experiences for young people to celebrate childhood.
The college receives regular feedback about her professionalism, warmth, and quality of her learning spaces. As part of her role, Ms Wells also guides a committee of volunteers in navigating the running of the licensed educational venue, as well as considering budgeting, resourcing, maintaining enrolments and fundraising ventures.
She was drawn to the profession to nurture, inspire and support young pupils. She hopes to gently guide and provide students with the foundation they need to become lifelong learners and celebrate their successes through play-based learning.
In her nomination, colleagues wrote: “Natalie places value on every person that enters her classroom and they leave feeling uplifted and esteemed.”
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