A beginning teacher who is opening up new worlds for students by improving their ability to communicate is a finalist in state teaching awards. Nursery Road State Special School (NRSSS) teacher Gabrielle Milne collaborates with expert practitioners to provide new avenues of communication for her students, who have severe intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Her outstanding commitment to her students and their families is just one of the reasons she is a finalist for the Queensland College of Teachers Excellence in Beginning to Teach TEACHX Award.
Miss Milne, with the help of her school’s speech therapist, introduced the ‘Tell It Again Program’, which helps students who are struggling with literacy.
The program focuses on students’ ability to understand elements of a story, and its benefits were immediate for students.
“Without communication you’ve got nothing,” Miss Milne said.
“Many of my students never graduate from high school in the traditional sense. They’ll move into other pathways. So, it’s so important in our school that when we’re teaching the curriculum and literacy and numeracy, we’re also teaching the skills that they’re going to need to live as much of an independent life as possible, and that always comes down to communication,” she said.
Miss Milne’s collaborative spirit was also behind her introducing an App to support parental engagement.
“Our students don’t go home and say, ‘Oh Mum, I had a great day and this is what I did and that’s what I did’, so it’s great to be able to show [the parents] what they’re doing through the day and just photos here and there and little work samples. It was really great,” Miss Milne said. “It’s allowed me to really build such great relationships with the parents too, which is important in any school setting but especially in special education.”
Miss Milne enjoys working at NRSSS and said it was the little wins and watching her students grow that mattered.
She said beginning teachers needed to have passion.
“There’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding and it’s easy to put in a lot of work when you feel really passionate about it,” Miss Milne.
Thinking back on her own schooling she said everyone had those one or two teachers who stuck in their mind for the right reasons.
“I guess I definitely wanted to be that teacher for someone,” she said.
As a fianlist, Miss Milne received $500 for professional development.