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Deborah McIntyre


More than 20 classes are each taught by two teachers rather than one under a “life-changing” reform at a Brisbane high school.

Centenary State High School (CSHS) Deputy Principal of Inclusion, Deborah McIntyre, is a finalist for a prestigious state teaching award as a result of her tireless and transformative advocacy for all students.

The former Sydney resident, who has taught at Catholic, independent and state schools across Queensland and New South Wales, introduced a co-teaching model at CSHS to ensure students with disabilities and significant learning difficulties were included in mainstream classes. The school has 10 Inclusion teachers, who work seamlessly with mainstream teachers under the new model.

“It was all about including all students in a mixed-ability classroom of their peers,” Dr McIntyre said. “Equity is really important to me.”

“All of the literature now tells us that all students do better in mixed ability classrooms. We now know that those students who are located in a specific (special education) area of the school, who are taught by Inclusion teachers, are disadvantaged both academically but most importantly, socially – that’s how they see themselves, that’s how they grow up, that’s their high school experience. When they get married, they were ‘That kid in the unit’. It colours your whole life,” she said.

“Because we don’t have a Special Education unit, there’s no particular area that the students hang around, there’s no particular teachers that they are taught by, they have a normal high school experience … and that’s life-changing,” Dr McIntyre said.

She said an unexpected result of the reform was how much teachers liked the experience of working with, and being supported by, a colleague in their classroom.

Dr McIntyre, who has a Master of Special Education degree and a PhD looking at students and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, is a finalist for this year’s Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning Award.

The Deputy Principal has also led the development of a CSHS Reconciliation Action Plan, which includes the introduction of Indigenous student leaders, a yarning circle, connections with Indigenous elders and artists, and a respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures at the school.

“Our Indigenous student leaders – they perform Acknowledgement of Country on school assemblies and represent the school at community events,” Dr McIntyre said.

She has also worked with LGBTQIA+ students, their parents and the school community at large to set up a working group and a produce a draft Diversity Policy to ensure that students who identify as gender diverse are provided with the support and connection they need.

“I think that will make an enormous difference for many students,” she said.

Decades after she first started teaching, Dr McIntyre said she felt privileged “to work daily with some of the most fantastic students” as a result of her student inclusion work.

Winners of the TEACHX Awards will be announced on October 28, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day celebrations in Queensland. Finalists win $500, and winners $5000, for professional development.

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