Winners of the Roslyn Otzen Award for Exceptional Teaching

2019 – Read like a girl: revitalising reading
Helen Stower – Programme Leader, Information Services & iCentre – Mount Alvernia College, Brisbane, Australia

As a teacher librarian in a girls’ secondary college, bringing literature into the life of teenage girls is one of Helen’s ultimate goals.

At the conclusion of 2014, Helen was successful in an application to lead the school library at Mount Alvernia College when she was appointed as the Program Leaader of the iCentre. When she stepped into the role, Helen inherited a beautiful, well-managed and well-resourced library. However, the place for literature is not on a bookshelf. Even the most powerful of books cannot change lives if they are not read. Connecting young people with literature requires action. The College Leadership Team challenged Helen to move beyond a management role and to lead in a way that would build a reading culture throughout the school community and ultimately contribute to improved learning outcomes for students.

Helen recognised this would be a significant challenge given social trends in Australia that contribute to decreasing reading rates among adolescents in general and adolescent girls in particular. Helen embarked on a strategic approach to establish such a culture and through research and action has developed a reading community at Mount Alvernia College that has ultimately changed classroom practice, extra-curricular offerings and community engagement.

2020 – Student Voice – Developing a Student Leadership Program
Ann Brownlie – Head of Faculty – Health & PE and Teacher in Charge Student Leadership at St Ursula’s College, Toowoomba, Australia

Central to the effectiveness of student leadership is the role of the principal in developing a school culture that respects the student voice and facilitates the student voice to be heard. Students must be prepared effectively to take on leadership roles and to this end, Ann was appointed to take on an additional role created to be responsible for the development of a school wide leadership program to be known as the ASPIRE Program developing leadership skills for all students from Years 7-12. This position provided Ann with the opportunities to lead and collaborate with students and staff to propose a new program to enhance school engagement at a student level. Similarly, the position enabled Ann to improve communication methods and processes, to plan and effect a change at the College.

Much has been achieved in the ten months since the inception of the ASPIRE Program. Throughout the review of practices and development of a refreshed leadership program, student voice was more than a source of data. Rather, it was positioned to where there is “shared decision making and implementation of action”, a key component of the College Wellbeing Framework. There will be a significant shift in mindset of many stakeholders, from one where students are in a managerial role of orchestrating and organising student events, to one where they will be playing an active role in leading and contributing to the strategic goals of school improvement.

2021 – Advocating for student-centred decision making and professional support
Janelle O’Neill – Director of Professional Learning at Mt St Michael’s College, Brisbane, Australia

Janelle commenced at Mt St Michael’s College in 2011 as Head of Department Mathematics with the mantra, ‘maths is for everyone’. As an advocate for student-based decisions in the preceding co-educational environments, she adapted her philosophy to the nuances of girls’ education. She sought external and internal data to ascertain needs, displacing students and staff from their comfort zone whilst enabling them with structured planning, scaffolding and assessment design aligned with the Australian Curriculum. In her endeavour to develop critical and creative thinkers whilst dissolving the parent narrative ‘maths is too hard for my daughter’ and ‘I was never good at maths either’, she established problem solving initiatives to develop confidence in applying knowledge and learning experiences for the content in different contexts. A consistent approach to all maths classes was adopted to eliminate the girls’ perception of favouritism or any disadvantage that could deter learning.

Subsequent to her work in the Mathematics Department, for the past five years Janelle has embarked on a cross-curricular focus incorporating explicit teaching and intentional leadership for girls’ education as Director of Professional Learning. Janelle has continued to advocate for student-centred decision making and professional support through building expertise and a learning culture. She has presented over fifty sessions to the whole teaching team, College Board of Directors and at external conferences. Janelle shares her understandings and gains feedback from external sources when delivering presentations. Her work highlights her passion for positive outcomes for girls’ and commitment to a collaborative and connected teaching team. Janelle continues to promote and nurture a student-student, student-teacher, student-parent-teacher and teacher-teacher learning environment.

2022 – Strengthening engagement in STEM
Tara Quenault, Head of Science, Melbourne Girls Grammar, Melbourne, Australia

Tara is an educational leader Melbourne Girls Grammar who inspires both her students and her teacher team members to achieve excellence in science education. Over the past few years, both at Melbourne Girls Grammar and The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, she has led innovations, demonstrated leadership, and introduced scholarly approaches through a range of projects, including leading the:

  • Introduction of a new Year 10 Science core subject for all students
  • Professional learning for staff in contemporary Science education theories

  • Curriculum mapping and documentation of the Science learning area from Year 5 to Year 12.

In her role at Melbourne Girls’ Grammar, Tara has worked to increase the breadth of science curricular and co-curricular offerings at the school. These include the introduction of STEM Captains on the Student Executive Council from 2022, the introduction of a STEM Auxiliary within our parent community to engage with our student leaders, ‘Girls in STEM’ community education events that have been run in conjunction with the school research institute, A Science Talent Search competition, International Competitions, various Year 10 enhancement projects, The Science Olympiad, The Junior Science Olympiad, ICAS Competitions, and the Big Science Competition.

These initiatives have resulted in a marked increase in engagement and student choice of science in their academic studies. Specifically, this has resulted in:

  • 50% increase in Year 10 students picking multiple elective science subjects in 2022
  • 100% increase in VCE Unit 1&2 Physics classes for 2022
  • 25% increase in VCE Unit 1-4 Biology classes for 2022.

2022 – Embedding STEM across faculties
Freya Campion, Director of STEM and Innovation, Kambala, Sydney, Australia

When she joined Kambala as Head of STEM, Freya began to map opportunities across faculties in which STEM could be embedded into programs across a range of disciplines. Her aim was to ensure that STEM skills could be translated to departments other than traditional STEM subjects as well as within Maths, Science and Technology. From this she has developed numerous projects ranging across the Senior and Junior School. To execute each of these programs she has worked with colleagues to research, develop and deliver them, and then evaluate them in order to build on their success each year.

Freya recognised that in order to truly embed STEM within the curriculum, it would be necessary to have individuals within departments who were responsible for this. She then campaigned for two STEM Champions (in History and English) whose role it was to develop STEM opportunities within their own departments but also at a cross departmental level. From the success of this pilot program in 2020-2021 Kambala has now appointed a third Champion in PDHPE who will take over the running of the Biomechanics PDHPE/STEM project Freya had started and a position will also be created in the Junior School, both to begin in 2022. Furthermore, the success of projects that have been run across History and English has led to more departments becoming involved and an aim of the STEM Champions for 2022 is to embed projects across more faculties and year groups.

In addition, Freya has initiated a number of STEM initiatives across the school to engage both staff and students across year levels, such as:

  • Mission to Mars for Year 7

  • Bridge Building for Year 8

  • Week of Inspirational Maths for Year 7 and 8

  • Year 9 Innovation and Design

  • Embedding STEM into Year 9 Speculative Fiction studies
  • STEM clubs across the school
  • Women in STEM forum
  • STEM Industry Immersion program
  • Worked with UTS in to implement Engineering as part of the HSC offering at Kambala