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Finalist — Cecilia Kovacic



The co-creator of an award-winning Fraser Coast festival run by Maryborough State High School (MSHS) students is a now finalist in prestigious state teaching awards.

MSHS Head of Department – Student Performance, Cecilia Kovacic, came up with the idea of the FraserPop Pop Culture Festival (FraserPop) to provide her Diploma of Business students with real-world experiences as part of their course. The event attracted more than 15,000 people last year, driving up tourism dollars for the town.

Mrs Kovacic’s commitment to boosting her students’ employment opportunities, her innovative teaching approaches and her ability to build relationships to help pupils succeed are just some of the reasons she is a finalist for this year’s Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellence in Teaching Award.

In a town where youth unemployment is high, Mrs Kovacic and her school’s leadership team strive to connect students to employers and business opportunities.

“It’s very competitive in the employment market; the access to employment is more limited. In all of our qualifications we try to have real-world outlooks to them, we don’t just want to do a case study,” she said.

Mrs Kovacic said the first year that they introduced FraserPop – a family-inclusive festival which celebrates gaming, cosplay, popular culture and much more, the school had hoped for 2000 people through the gates.

“We had over 7000 and then over 10,000 and then over 15,000 and this year we were headed for over 18,000,” Mrs Kovacic said. “It is run by the students in Grade 12 and they’re the ones who do everything. Yes, we have to be there on the day and observe and make sure they’re on track, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. The event can’t run without the students and the staff and the volunteers – it’s not just the Diploma of Business students,” she said.

The event has won the Event Management of the Year Award at the Fraser Coast Business and Tourism Awards for the past three years and MSHS has been named Education Provider of the Year at the awards partly because of the festival.

Under Mrs Kovacic’s leadership 100 per cent of MSHS graduating students have received a Queensland Certificate of Education, 100 per cent of students have achieved a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification or Nationally Recognised Training (NRT) qualification, and 100 per cent who have applied to university have received offers.

She has worked with MSHS staff to establish ground-breaking programs for the region, including a new hair and beauty salon equipped to an industry standard. She has also helped set up Memorandums of Understanding with the University of the Sunshine Coast and CQ University, and worked closely with the local Trade Training Centre staff to boost future career opportunities for pupils.

The Registered Training Organisation Manager said student success came down to one thing – strong and professional relationships.

“That is the way to reach them,” Mrs Kovacic said. “They work so hard and participate fully in a program if you have a working relationship with them and don’t give up on them, and you help them to achieve their full potential so that they can go on and create whatever path they want to pursue,” Mrs Kovacic said. “I love my job – I love the fact that I specialised in something that I am really passionate about.”

Mrs Kovacic has also applied this year to complete a Doctor of Education program, in which she proposes to investigate the role that NRT and VET programs play in the secondary school environment, including what – if any – stigma prevents the adoption of them or creates barriers to their successful implementation.

The winners of the TEACHX Awards will be announced on 29 October, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day in Australia.

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