Karen Caswell’s Year 4 classroom at Coomera Rivers State School is a magical place. The first week of every term in Karen’s classroom is dedicated to ‘know me before you teach me’ because she places immensely high value on building relationships with her students. She runs a variety of activities during this week with students, such as ‘book tastings’ and team building activities. As she is passionate about student centred learning and offering agency, she understands the significance of knowing her students. Karen’s lessons are engaging and rich in learning. She uses a wide variety of effective and high-yield, research-based strategies to support the learning outcomes of all students.
She differentiates her teaching through the use of Targeted Teaching Plans and ensures the learning needs of all students are met. Karen's passion for reading and for developing a love of reading, has had led to positive change in our school. The initiatives she has led have resulted in student reading improvement and the growth of classroom libraries. One example of student reading growth is Jamie, who started the year as a disengaged, reluctant reader. By offering student choice and facilitating independent reading, Karen inspired a love of reading in Jamie, who began to read regularly and his reading level improved dramatically. As the school’s Indigenous Champion and collegial coach, Karen leads her colleagues to select and implement teaching strategies that are supportive of Indigenous students, and supports the use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across the curriculum. To support her own professional growth, Karen engages in a program of extensive professional reading. She shares her learnings with colleagues, and has worked collaboratively with staff to establish a professional learning library for the school. She has also built a global professional learning network, and regularly shares her expertise by hosting Twitter chats, speaking at conferences and on podcasts. Karen also hosts ‘Teach Meets’ which are indicative of her commitment to professional learning. Teach Meets are opportunities for further professional development and involve a range of activities for staff. As a creative and innovative educator who is also passionate about integration of digital pedagogies, Karen has initiated a number of activities at the school to improve students’ digital literacy. Karen's students participated in collaboratively editing the ‘Serendipity Journal’ with author Allyson Apsey, providing her with feedback on her latest book and interacting with her via Skype. Karen also had Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate, Skype in to read to students and inspire staff during a Teach Meet. Karen facilitated a global Kindness Read aloud via Twitter, and created a digital book tasting, 'Bookflix' for the Professional Library, exposing her colleagues to the inspiring options of professional reading texts available to them. During the Coomera Rivers Digital Pedagogy Open Day, Karen opened her classroom to teachers from all over Queensland, inspiring them with creative, digital ideas and suggestions on how to begin their digital journey. Karen creates iTunesU courses, enabling her students to access their learning at the appropriate level, work at their own pace and access the learning at any time, inside and outside of school hours. Karen is clearly a force for good at Coomera Rivers State School. Congratulations on your nomination, Karen.