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Finalist — Pearl Donovan



Already named as one of the Gold Coast’s favourite teachers, Pearl Donovan has now been recognised as one of the state’s most outstanding educators, with a finalist position in the prestigious Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) TEACHX Awards.

Having started her teaching career in Canada in 1976, the Queensland Academy for Health Sciences (QAHS) Experienced Senior Teacher has spent decades passing her passion for English literature on to students across the globe. She also taught in the United States of America before securing a role at Wynnum State High School in 1987. She was then the Head of Studies at a private business school in Hong Kong before arriving on the Gold Coast, where she has taught ever since.

Her ability to build strong relationships and connections with students, as well as to help them excel academically, saw her awarded the title of ‘My Favourite Teacher’ in 2007 by the Gold Coast Bulletin, which had more than 1500 nominations for the award. This year, she is a finalist for the QCT TEACHX Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award.

After winning the ‘My Favourite Teacher’ title, Ms Donovan applied for a position seemingly written for her. The role – at a yet-to-be-opened school involved writing English programs suitable for Health Science students, and then helping the gifted students to attain an International Baccalaureate Diploma – a globally-recognised education qualification.

That school was QAHS, and 13 years on, Ms Donovan said there was no better place to teach.

“The International Baccalaureate was set up to develop internationally-minded people who are: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, risk takers, principled, caring, open-minded, balanced, and reflective. Of course, I think the Academy students exhibit all of those qualities, as do the staff … my colleagues are amazing,” Ms Donovan said.

“The students are here because they want to be. They are selected. We are one of the top schools in the state (for academic performance). We are privileged to work with such wonderful individuals and it is a joy to be teaching here. We all put in a tremendous effort to make sure the students get the best education they possibly can,” she said.

“I love laughing with the students and seeing their learning progress; they are metaphorical sponges and use and develop their skills from class to assemble their ideas in novel ways in their work. It’s fantastic. How many students do you know that actually will … say, ‘Thank you Ms Donovan – that was a wonderful lesson’?”

Despite some students having English as a second language, and English not being the strength of others who specialise in the Health Sciences, every single one of Ms Donovan’s QAHS students since the academy opened has passed English. She steeps students in English literature, and literature from around the globe. She has helped some students transform from not liking English, to asking her for book lists before they graduate. The marking load of any English teacher is enormous, but it is even more demanding at QAHS, where students are expected to write 4000-word Extended essays. Her dedication to students has been praised by her colleagues and is evident from the letters she sometimes receives from graduates.

While Ms Donovan’s love for teaching, and her commitment to students, hasn’t changed over the past four decades, classrooms have. “When I started, they had spirit duplicators – we used to call them ‘ditto machines’ – and manual typewriters for lesson planning. Then we went to overhead transparencies, and then Xerox created photocopiers, and then TVs and DVDs were standard in the classroom. And now, teachers need to make sure that they know how to use interactive panels and know about computer platforms, so it has really been a very interesting career,” Ms Donovan said.

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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