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Finalist — Peita Bates



A former business consultant turned teacher, Peita Bates is making an invaluable contribution to the Fraser Coast as she lifts student performance at Maryborough State High School (MSHS) and helps pupils from across the region to complete business qualifications and learn coding and robotics.

Ms Bates, who has been named a finalist in state-wide teaching awards, has also helped maintain her school’s Vocational Education and Training program, introduced coding as a language, set up virtual classrooms to provide programs to neighbouring schools, created an interschool competition in the wake of COVID-19 and works with the Fraser Coast Regional Council, and local businesses, to identify opportunities and projects for students.

The Coding, Business and Information, Digital Media and Technology (IDMT) teacher is a finalist for the Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award.

Ms Bates’ Years 11 and 12 students have a 100 per cent completion rate in their Certificate II and Certificate III in Business/IDMT.

For the former businesswoman, it’s important that student qualifications also provide real-world experience. Students working on the school yearbook, for example, have a ready-made portfolio to show potential employers, as well as work to show they have completed the required competencies in a Certificate course. Her students also undertake work supporting the award-winning FraserPop Pop Culture Festival.

“Students put on the FraserPop – we had fifteen-and-a-half-thousand people through last year, in its second year. That’s no small feat for a team of Grade 12 students … to achieve. This is stuff the public not only sees but pays for. I think that adds a lot of weight to the qualifications that the school offers,” she said.

Through her use of digital classrooms, students who can’t always attend school can keep up with their classes. MSHS also offers the Certificate III Business program to three other regional schools through the technological platform.

In her first year as a teacher, Ms Bates piloted a new language program teaching computer coding; this has grown to ten classes and helped her gain a deeper understanding of how curriculum works. She also delivers a weekly coding lesson to a local primary school. Lessons are structured the same way as any Languages subject.

“We teach them grammar, except in coding, we call it syntax. It’s really about that creative and critical thinking and collaboration and all those sorts of 21st century skills that we talk about,” Ms Bates said.

As she has worked with stockbrokers, in government and running her own business, Ms Bates’ expertise was also utilised by MSHS to help with a Registered Training Organisation audit when she was on a university practicum.

“So, as a preservice teacher, with my background in corporate governance, they got me involved and we did really well. We’ve maintained that and are now considered to be a regional expert and we’ve got a huge scope,” she said.

One passion project for Ms Bates is her Roboacademy, in which students get to engage with technology in a non-classroom environment. They choose to learn about robotics, coding, animation, or green screen. It engages students’ creativity and builds their confidence in using technology. It is also used as part of a transition program for primary school students and has been particularly helpful for students on the autism spectrum who are making the transition.

Last year, Ms Bates won the Fraser Coast Education Alliance Educational Futures and Technology Award for her work. Earlier this year, she was perplexed to find online tech-based competitions being cancelled due to COVID-19.

“Our students needed something that was collaborative and could be done virtually and without physical resources. So, we decided, ‘We’re going to fix it’,” the EduTECH presenter said.

She created the ‘Game On Challenge’ for pupils to design and/or develop a game based on the theme ‘Connection’.

In a region where youth unemployment can reach more than 25 per cent, the educator remains passionate about providing pathways and real-world opportunities for her students.

“When you see who is getting the jobs – it’s our students. We have a huge responsibility, not just to our students but to the entire Maryborough community to turn kids out that just lift the whole community,” Ms Bates 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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