WINNER OF THE 2021 DR ALAN DRUERY OAM EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING AWARD
When children were learning at home during the COVID-19 shutdown, teacher Elizabeth Hitchmough checked in weekly, and sometimes daily, with parents to help.
For difficult concepts, the state teaching award winner provided specific video lessons.
Each family had already been rung at the start of the year by Mrs Hitchmough – in addition to designated-parent teacher meetings – for an annual positive, in-depth start-of the-year discussion to help her better understand how to teach each child and to connect.
More than 30 years after she started teaching, former students still approach Mrs Hitchmough to discuss the classroom activities they undertook decades ago. Her care for each student she teaches, and for supporting their parents wherever she can, is palpable.
The inspirational Edens Landing State School Year 5 teacher, who runs a speaking club which has been life-changing for some students, and who has mentored many colleagues, is the winner of this year’s Queensland College of Teachers Excellence in Teaching Award.
“For me it's all about relationships – if the child doesn't know that you care about them, then they can't learn from you, their brains need security to be able to learn,” Mrs Hitchmough said.
“For that year when you have them, they are your kids – you think about them and you care about them … and then when they go on to Year 6, you think about them occasionally, but you have got a new bunch of kids who are yours and they fill up your mind,” she said.
From texting parents daily when their child is going through challenges, to thinking about a child as she is driving home – analysing an event from the day and how she might be able to better help them – Mrs Hitchmough is deeply committed to her role and the profession.
She said teaching wasn’t the easiest job, but it “could be the most rewarding in the world”.
“When you look at a kid who at the beginning of the year couldn’t sit still, and then you look around and there they are with their head down and their pencil moving, and you read what they have written and it’s amazing, and you can tell that they have listened to what you are saying and they have made such amazing progress – it's fantastic,” Mrs Hitchmough said.
“I often see kids coming back and they come up with a, ‘Hello, Mrs Hitchmough’ – and they are six feet tall and they have got deep voices and beards – and they talk to me about their lives and they say, ‘Do you still do this activity and do you still do that activity?’, and they tell me all the things that they remember about themselves being in Grade 5,” she said.
“I've been here a very long time in this school and I'm actually on to my second generation now, so I've got kids who say, ‘You taught my mum’ … that's one of my favourite things.”
Her expertise has been credited as one of the reasons her year level has the highest number of As in English. And her dedication to helping students attend a speech competition – at which mostly non-state school students compete – has been life-changing for some.
She is also passionate about mentoring colleagues, but never wants to leave the classroom.
“Everything I love about teaching is based around the kids,” Mrs Hitchmough said.
Mrs Hitchmough has won $5,000 for professional development.