Catherine Heiner


A lifetime of championing Indigenous education, inclusivity and gifted and talented students has seen an inspirational Sheldon College teacher named as a finalist in state teaching awards.

Sheldon College Head of Faculty Humanities, Catherine Heiner, has just been named a state finalist for the Queensland College of Teachers Outstanding Contribution to Teaching TEACHX Award. ​ This exceptional educator has significantly impacted students from various socio-economic backgrounds through her commitment to excellence in teaching. Mrs Heiner embodies not only the professional expertise and high standards of her calling but also the heart and spirit of what constitutes quality education.

She values the growth and development of students as lifelong learners and active citizens of a global community. Her warmth brings out the best in her students and provides a wonderful example of how true education is about the development of students holistically.

Believing that every student has the capacity to make incremental gains, she identifies students’ strengths or gifts and how they learn. Thousands of students have benefitted from her targeted intervention and commitment to ensuring students reach their potential.

Numerous gifted and talented students from across Brisbane have participated in Excellence Days Mrs Heiner has coordinated at Sheldon College. She also coaches and mentors Year 12 Sheldon College students to achieve OPs of 1 to 3.

Working at Beenleigh State High School in the early 1990s, she implemented Indigenous cultural days, causing the number of students who identified as Indigenous to triple in 12 months.

“I guess it was that feeling of respect for Indigenous culture that was valued within the school,” Mrs Heiner said. “I think those cultural days and the embedding of Indigenous studies in the Humanities also built understanding, empathy and tolerance and that, of course, enriched the learning for all,” she said.

In the same vein, Mrs Heiner has implemented Indigenous units of study at seven schools to foster respect and cultural understanding.

She was hired by TAFE to set up a program to train Indigenous students to become teacher aides for Indigenous children in the classroom. On the first day of class she only had one student, but with the support of local Indigenous educators who took the program into the community, 75 Indigenous women graduated from the program.

Another integral part of her praxis is the teaching of Socratic thinking.

“It’s been important to me to embed that critical thought from a young age, so we start in Year 7 with the basics of recognising that there are different perspectives and to being open to other people’s points of view, to listen to them and then to make your own judgement,” Mrs Heiner said.

“In this day and age with the internet at their fingertips, too many of our children are just assuming that whatever they read is gospel. I think the whole notion of Socratic thinking, of coming in with that critical eye, being able to look for fallacies, and understanding what makes a good argument, is important for young people today,” she said.

Mrs Heiner has presented her expertise at state and international conferences, because she values sharing best practice with colleagues. In addition, she coordinates Sheldon College’s Smith Family Buddy Reading Program and Community Service Club to engender a feeling of empathy in young people.

She has worked across Independent and state schools, from a small country school to Cleveland State High School and Sheldon College among others, and she is touched to have been nominated for the Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award.

“I wanted to be a teacher since I was a child; I used to get the children in the street together and teach them with a blackboard,” she said, and she’s been teaching ever since.

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