OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO SCHOOL COMMUNITY
Inspirational teaching finalist makes immeasurable impact on Logan community
A Logan teacher with powerful and profound connections with her students and their multicultural communities is a finalist in prestigious state-wide teaching awards.
Decades after she started teaching at Mabel Park State High School (MPSHS), Margaret Sherrington is now teaching the grandchildren of students she once taught.
Her legendary kindness – from helping students through assessments even after they graduate, to putting on lunches and providing essential items when families can’t afford it, sees her stopped in shops by parents and even named godmother to one former student’s children. She’s described by colleagues as embodying all things wonderful about teaching.
Almost every single extra-curricular event at MPSHS has had Mrs Sherrington’s hand in it; including awards nights, the senior formal, Year 12 graduation, the Multicultural Night, fundraiser barbecues, the Samoa Tour, sports days, Spark It Up!, Queensland cheerleading competitions, the Multicultural Performance Festival and the school’s homework club.
Mrs Sherrington, who is a finalist for this year’s Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Outstanding Contribution to School Community Award, said relationships with students are “incredibly important”, and her tireless efforts outside the classroom helped build these.
When she arrived at MPSHS about 30 years ago, Mrs Sherrington found the disadvantages that some students and their families faced confronting. She helped start a Multicultural Performance Festival (MPF), in which pupils proudly perform cultural dances. This also built relationships with parents, some of whom had negative or no schooling experiences. Nearly 1000 community members now attend the MPF and the powerful event is often the first touchpoint for parents, who come from more than 60 cultural backgrounds.
She has played an important role in the school’s LEAD program, which helps students gain entry to Griffith University. Some are the first in their families to attend university.
“It encourages them to create a legacy, to get an education, to achieve and to dream, and that’s what it (LEAD) stands for,” Mrs Sherrington said. “I want them to be successful; I want them to have a positive sense of who they are; I want them to know that they can accomplish anything that they can put their mind to – as long as they are prepared to work for it – nothing comes for free. It doesn’t matter what socio-economic group you come from, you can succeed.”
Her profound connection with pupils and their communities was evident in her relationship with one former school captain, whom she helped through personal challenges in Year 12 and through a Law degree at university. Mrs Sherrington’s efforts saw the former student name the teacher godmother to her children. Heartbreakingly, the young woman and her baby daughters perished in a tragic housefire, which took 11 lives. Mrs Sherrington walked in grief alongside the family and Pacific Islander communities – praying, crying and mourning with them. Her colleagues said the place she holds in the Logan community, due to her relationships like this, “cannot be measured, cannot be put in words or even explained, it can only be felt”.
Her impact over a lifetime of teaching is immeasurable.