Inspirational educator recognised in the inaugural Rosyln Otzen Award for Exceptional Teaching

Alliance of Girls' Schools / 13 June 2019

The Roslyn Otzen Award for Exception Teaching recognises and rewards great teachers who have made a significant contribution to teaching girls.

Launched in October 2018, the initiative is the first of its kind in Australasia to focus on girls’ education.

By sharing the teaching practices and programs of inspirational teachers and placing their achievements in the spotlight, the Alliance aims to raise awareness for the unparalleled opportunities girls’ schools provide for girls and young women and the incredible work our teachers are doing.

The award is open to education professionals in Alliance member schools across all school sectors: government, Catholic and independent.

Winner Helen Stower is a Teacher Librarian and Program Leader of the iCentre at Mount Alvernia College, in Brisbane. One of her ultimate goals is to bring literature into the life of teenage girls, and it is the initiatives she put in place to achieve this that won her the attention of the judging panel.

‘I am passionate about improving girls’ engagement with books for two reasons. The first is that vast research into the impact of reading beyond curriculum offerings concludes that it improves academic and social outcomes. The second is that when I read books and articles about people who have achieved great things in their lives and careers, they repeat a common message – storytelling is a key ingredient to success,’ said Mrs Stower.

‘Through books, our girls will experience great stories and I hope these will translate into an ability to tell their own stories in life.

‘I was overwhelmed to learn that I am the inaugural recipient of Roslyn Otzen Award for Exceptional Teaching. I absolutely love teaching girls and think school libraries play a very special role in education, it is certainly a career highlight for the Alliance of Girls’ Schools to commend my work as a teacher librarian.’

Loren Bridge, Executive Officer at the Alliance said it was vital to acknowledge the importance of great teachers is in the work they do to inspire students, colleagues and communities.

‘We’re delighted to recognise their achievements and commitment to educating girls through this award, and to show our appreciation for the work they do and the difference they make to their students, their schools and the wider community,’ said Ms Bridge.

About Helen’s program

Recognising that reading levels amongst adolescent girls have been steadily decreasing in Australia, Helen began to investigate programs that would reverse this trend at Mount Alvernia.

Her approach consisted of three key strategies:

  1. Classroom practice: identifying the need for evidence-based research to inform her practice, Helen initiated a project to gather data about the impact of the reading program, called Campfire, in year 7 and 8.
  2. Extra-curricular offerings: to foster a reading culture and create a reading community, Helen identified that opportunities beyond the classroom were needed to engage students in the world of books and literature. To this end, Helen set about collaborating with other passionate colleagues in the teaching and book worlds, and inter-school Book Clubs and the Read Like a Girl movement was established.
  3. Collaboration with all stakeholders (parents and staff): to create a reading community, Helen recognised the need for all stakeholders to be onboard. To this end, she initiated a project called It takes a reader to grow a reader. This project encapsulates a series opportunities for parents to be involved.

Evidence of positive outcomes for girls’ education
In two years since the program’s launch, borrowing and reading rates at our school libraries have tripled that of 2016.  Our book events are a regular feature on the school calendar and our students are highly involved in these events, from attending and meeting authors, to helping set up and run the events.  A Read Like a Girl student committee is highly involved in the planning and hosting of all events. In excess of 1400 attendees have participated in the Mt Alvernia College Read Like a Girl events since the project began, two years ago, and one event this year with Australian author Lynette Noni attracted over 350+ attendees.

To find out more about Helen’s programs please contact us at [email protected]