For Karen Hamilton, teaching is all about her students at St Andrews Lutheran College where she has taught Year 7s English, Study of Society and Environment (SOSE) and Visual Arts for 17 years. “At the beginning of each year, as students eagerly enter the door of high school, Karen, takes considerable time to get to know each of her students. As a result, they feel a sense of belonging and know that Karen has their best interests at heart,” colleague Louise Thorpe says.
According to Karen this is key to getting each and every student ready, not only for further academic learning but for personal discovery and growth as they embrace their adolescent years. “My passion for teaching Year 7 is driven by my philosophy that if I can build a relationship of trust and honesty with my students, then I can help them to flourish at this important stage of their lives. I share with all my students, my experience has taught me that every child can learn and I believe this empowerment of self-belief is vital to their success. I am all about raising the bar and view my role as one of nurturing the development of skills for life (primarily) and learning”. Keeping an eye on her students, she remains clearly aware of those who need further challenges and those who have specific needs for activities to be modified to allow them to experience success. Students come out of her lessons able to extend their learning and enhance their skills and knowledge, something that will prove useful for life. “The best way to measure Karen’s impact is from teaching alongside her and witnessing the growth in her students,” Louise says. An example of her teaching is how she will go through assessment items with a student. She allows them time to self-assess how they performed. Often, she will simulate activities, for example re-writing an introduction or a certain paragraph, which allows the student to seek out where they made errors and how they can improve their writing in the future. According to Louise, Karen is highly reflective and “Values collaborating with other teachers, parents and students in order to achieve the best outcomes possible.” Everything Karen does is centred on her students; an open-door policy allows them and their families in to discuss learning and any other considerations with her. This constant communication reflects her collaborative philosophy and understanding of the need to keep all parties updated. When health concerns required her to take leave for two months last year, she still kept herself up-to-date on the progress of her students the entire time through colleagues—not just keeping up-to-date, but offering suggestions and direction. A quiet achiever, she has been Year 7 coordinator, organised year level camps and Middle School Fun Nights and coached Debating, Reader’s Cup and Tournament of Minds in past years. Karen is a critical thinker and excellent planner: each unit of work is like a blank canvas full of new possibilities for the 37 year teaching veteran who knows what works but never ceases adopting fresh ideas if it will help her students’ learning. Any completed professional development feeds back into the classroom and through her colleagues. A recent example is Karen’s increasing co-teaching, collaborative learning and differentiated learning supporting the College’s Learners Leading Learning philosophy. Congratulations Karen on your nomination.