EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING
Kali Ahmat has only been teaching for six years, but within that short period has become a pillar of educational excellence not only at Tagai State College, but also across the Torres Strait and as far afield as the Sunshine Coast.
Kali’s careful and deliberate weaving together of traditional language, cultural practices and heritage with the national curriculum in order to create more culturally responsive schooling, has been pivotal to the improvement of Torres Strait Islander student performance at Tagai State College.
Kali is a proud and passionate Torres Strait Islander and driver of inclusive curriculum. Her commitment to supporting students for whom English is an additional language is a key characteristic of her practice. By applying a language lens to the Australian curriculum, Kali has supported students to accurately write in both English and in Yumplatok, which is a creole spoken in the Torres Strait. As a result of this practice, students have improved their understanding of their own language and of the key differences between the two languages, and have thereby increased their ability to identify and correct the mistakes which result from a blurring between English and Yumplatok.
Kali has taken this work and shared it with teachers across the islands encompassed by Tagai State College, to ensure all students can succeed at language on native lands. She does so by running professional development, presenting at conferences, and engaging with linguistic professionals about best practice.
Kali regularly mentors beginning teachers and has supported other highly experienced teachers across the Torres Strait, and she is considered a source of wisdom and insight by beginning teachers and school leaders alike.
As her colleague, Laura Loucks, explains, “if someone mentions her name, it is always about the remarkable work she does.”
Kali’s success in this regard stems from her own experience in growing up on Badu Island in the Torres Strait. She is able to openly discuss the language complexities and difficulties she faced in learning English as an additional language when her community spoke Yumplatok, traditional language or both. Her firsthand accounts help teachers to understand the importance of language acquisition and the code switching that students must first master along with the ability to differentiate when they are speaking either of the languages.
More broadly, Kali is a leader of the community. She has been elected as a school council representative, a role in which she has advocated for staff and students across 16 Torres Strait Islander campuses. She works with teacher aides to enhance their skills and supports them to become confident educators in their own right. Moreover, Kali mentors other teachers in culturally responsive practice, and takes the time to bring staff to her traditional lands to explain key cultural practices and protocols, to make sure teachers feel supported and confident in their role. In a context with high teacher turnover, Kali’s work is crucial.
Congratulations Kali on being shortlisted for a TEACHX Excellence in Teaching Award.