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Dominic Maclean


At-risk students’ lives are being transformed – from struggling in mainstream schooling to taking on the Kokoda Challenge and leadership roles – thanks to an exciting flexi-school trial and a state teaching finalist.

In just his second year of teaching, Mabel Park State High School (MPSHS) teacher Dominic Maclean is a finalist for a prestigious state teaching award due to his ability to build relationships with at-risk students and to help them achieve success.

Mr Maclean, who is part of an “awesome team” trialling a pilot flexi-space project at MPSHS, is a finalist for the Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award.

He said the success stemmed from having “unconditional positive regard” for students, “getting them out of the four walls”, providing a safe and supportive learning environment, and then building on each student’s achievements.

“We start with co-constructing,” Mr Maclean said. “So, we sit down and we make sure that the students know that we are a team and it’s their space – it’s not my space or the other teachers’ space, it’s their’s – so it is going to look and feel and sound how they want it to. From there, you obviously get that buy in,” he said.

“I have found that just putting them in a box, like in a standard classroom, often just doesn’t work for them and whether we do a lesson outside, that can change it, or we might give them some time out – five minutes in or five minutes out – of the classroom.

“From there, it is about being supportive, while being safe as well – it is just about pumping them up every chance you get – talking to them positively, letting them know that they have done that well.

“When you do that and you give them an opportunity, and you give them a bit of positive encouragement, the student learning happens, and they get to experience success.”

Once the student-teacher trust relationship is built and the student knows they can succeed, they are then more open to feedback, Mr Maclean says.

His commitment to students – such as his “hitting the phones” during the COVID learning-at-home period last year to strengthen their wellbeing and keep them connected to the program – and his ability to reflect on and improve his teaching practice have been praised by leaders.

Mr Maclean said he felt grateful for the opportunities he was provided by the incredible leadership team and staff at MPSHS, and for the inspiration he gained from his students. Two students even took up the Kokoda Challenge with him, finishing in the top 10 per cent of all students.

“That was really special,” Mr Maclean said. “There are several students who have just blown me away and have really inspired me to be a better person.”

He also stepped in as a trainer six weeks before the All Girls Under 18’s Metropolitan East Rugby League went to the state championships, which they won.

“I am super grateful for the opportunities that I have been given and the for the kids I have got to meet,” Mr Maclean said.

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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