A former practising lawyer turned teacher has brought the courtroom to the classroom at Chancellor State College (CSC).
For close to nine years Cathy Nicholson was a successful lawyer but she decided to change careers and became a teacher like her father before her. She brings her real world experience to engage students in the classroom setting up mock courts and debates.
Ms Nicholson started at CSC in 2017 and in that short time she has led the Senior Legal Studies team, introduced two new elective programs for Year 10 students, entered teams into the Annual Mooting Competition run by the University of Sunshine Coast and taken students to Brisbane to experience the courts. Her outstanding leadership and dedication to student success are just some of the reasons she is a finalist in the Excellence in Teaching category for the Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Awards.
The first year Nicholson entered a Year 11 and Year 12 team into the Mooting Competition, CSC were the only state school entrant out of 11 schools. The Year 11s made it to the quarter finals and the Year 12s were runners-up in the Grand Final, winning Best Written submission. Her teams this year performed at a similarly high level.
The intense competition requiring strong preparation and commitment from the students and their coach. Ms Nicholson says the experience is invaluable for Legal Studies students.
“Because it is a very close comparison to what you do in court. They’re asked questions and have to think on their feet, and they have to know the cases and know where to look to answer the judge,” she said.
Ms Nicholson’s two Year 10 electives have a dual focus for students. Her first focus is to prepare them for legal studies in Senior and encourage and support students pursuing legal degrees beyond high school any way that she can. Her second focus is to give all students a basic understanding of the law, how they can use it in life and how it affects everyone. “This year when we went down to the court in Brisbane – to actually see real people going through these experiences and hearing their background stories – it really opened their eyes up that there’s a whole lot more involved,” Ms Nicholson said.
“Hearing different sides of people’s perspectives and giving them a voice is something that I am passionate about and it’s probably something that drove me to do teaching,” she said.
Ms Nicholson said she feels grateful to work with her colleagues at Chancellor and is excited to keep on elevating her students.
“I have absolutely no regrets about changing professions, you work hard, but it’s a very rewarding career,” she said. As a finalist, Ms Nicholson received $500 for professional development.