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Finalist — Susan Dalton



Student leadership has been revolutionised at a Gold Coast school where teenagers are playing a key role in decision-making and influencing school culture. They even take part in observations of, and give feedback on, teachers’ lessons.

Miami State High School (Miami High) is also leading the way in its education of deaf and hard of hearing students. Each of these students has an interpreter in their classroom and at assemblies. They also had an interpreter alongside their teachers on a split screen during the COVID-19 learning-at-home lessons. An introduction of schoolwide access to lesson captioning has driven up the academic outcomes of all students, not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The school is also the first in Queensland to have a specialist Head of Department in the learning area, setting itself up as a role model for success.

The exciting initiatives are among a plethora of programs and strategies at Miami High which have helped increase student inclusion, respect from the local community, and academic and sporting outcomes. The programs have also seen Miami High students recognised on state, national and international stages.

The initiatives are being driven by its transformational Principal, Susan Dalton, who has been named as a finalist in this year’s Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning Award. Ms Dalton, who is described as “visionary”, “tenacious”, “driven”, “strategic” and “incredibly selfless” by her staff, was also the winner of last year’s South East Queensland’s Department of Education Jack Pizzey Principal of the Year Award, and a finalist for this year’s Gold Coast City’s Woman of the Year Award.

The former Australian Hockey representative and ambassador for the Gold Coast Suns Australian Football League Women’s team, started her career as a Japanese teacher before quickly ascending into leadership roles. Ms Dalton said all of the outstanding results being achieved by the school and its students – including record OP results – stemmed from ensuring teaching practices were “exemplary”. She increased professional development for all teachers at the school and changed the timetable to accommodate it.

“Because that is our bread and butter,” Ms Dalton, who is also a highly respected mentor, said. “Students go to school to learn and teachers go to school to teach, so we have to get that right.” Ms Dalton has been recognised nationally as a leader in helping school staff to break down the elements of the Art and Science of Teaching model, which she said was “one of the most impactful teaching models in the world”.

To fulfil the school’s vision – ‘First class location, World class education’ – Ms Dalton has built academic and sporting excellence opportunities through partnerships with Bond and other universities, and with local business and sporting organisations, including the Gold Coast Suns, Surf Australia and A-Team Tuition, which provides on-site tutoring for students.

Ms Dalton has also introduced initiatives such as the Student Agency Framework, “where the students actually have a say through active leadership and citizenship programs in school decision-making”.

“The students actually contribute to what the timetable structure looks like; they contribute to what teaching looks like – we have students going on instructional rounds to observe teaching practices and give feedback to the schools High Impact Teaching Team. “My student leaders, they stay behind for leadership Performance Team meetings with Heads of Department and they have a voice on that, and they contribute. So, when we have ideas we will turn to them and say, ‘From a student perspective, how do you think this will go in the school?’, and they give their perspective and they often change our minds, which is really powerful,” Ms Dalton says.

Students are in charge of assemblies that include a segment called “my proud moment”, in which pupils are rewarded for good deeds in the community that align with school values, which local businesses and organisations have been encouraged to email in about.

“Kids know that when someone is in need it’s their obligation – they’re bound by our school values whether they are in or outside of the school – to help, and they get rewarded and showcased for that,” she said.

The winners of the TEACHX Awards will be announced on 29 October, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day in Australia. Finalists receive $500 for professional development, with winners receiving $5000.

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