English/Humanities teacher Karen Taylor is building a student-centred and literacy-rich learning environment at Bellbird Park State Secondary College. Karen understands that where her students are coming from also includes life outside of the classroom and this has informed how she builds relationships with them. Karen has ensured the completion of assessment by students who were at risk of academic failure. As Head of Department Ben Kiehne says, “She has shown them the value of their work and created a sense of pride in what they can achieve.”
Always keen to reflect on best practice and consult with peers, Karen sought guidance to get the disengaged students back on track. Rather than have her students moved to a different class, she consulted with the school leadership team, guidance officers and parents to change the learning environment in her class, restructuring the day of teaching and setting up goals more suited to the individual, which all led to such positive outcomes. Karen is noted for her common-sense approach to lesson planning. Applying evidence-based pedagogy such as the Gradual Release of Responsibility strategy to build student skills and confidence, she also demonstrates an understanding of where to employ quality feedback to each student. “Many experienced staff have commented on how refreshing and inspirational it is to observe Karen's classes, and are in turn already taking away new ideas and strategies to trial in their own classes.” Ben says. Always keen to reflect on best practice, take on research and consult with peers, Karen is an active participant in the school’s Collaborative Learning Community teams. Her collegial efforts have also included promoting the development of literacy at the school. She has visited other schools, liaised with library staff about current and future library needs, run a student survey, and developed recommended reading resources for the school’s teachers. Karen also worked with library staff to promote the Premier’s Reading Challenge and to coordinate Book Week activities. Congratulations Karen on your nomination.