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Melisse Catsoulis


The students at Wisdom College in Calamvale come from over 40 different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and for most, English is not their first language. It’s this diversity that teacher Melisse Catsoulis embraces. She is committed to giving all of her students the academic, emotional and physical skills they need to thrive both in and out of school. She has also shown a great commitment to authentically understanding, appreciating and fostering her students’ religious beliefs and cultural differences.

When entering Melisse’s Prep classroom, you would likely be welcomed in 20 different languages by the ‘Hello/Welcome’ display at the entrance of her classroom. You may be lucky enough to hear the children singing a chant to help them learn, or see Melisse consulting closely with a colleague to help a particular child in need.

At some stage during the day you may witness Melisse’s continuous work in supporting a multi-faith education.

Melisse recognises and celebrates times of religious importance to her students. She has also hosted a ladies’ night for up to 150 women from the Wisdom College community to raise funds for the school.

Melisse continually adjusts to her students’ different cultural etiquettes and social norms.

Last year, after the tragic Christchurch Mosque shootings, Melisse was chosen to host a Wisdom College peace ceremony, which was attended by representatives of many religions and schools.

Her extraordinary and respectful work does not go unnoticed.

Nafeeza Ayesha Yusuf, a parent at the school, says Melisse has been “absolutely outstanding in embracing students’ cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds”.

“She is extremely patient, respectful and positive in her approach with students,” Ayesha says.

The impact that Melisse has as a teacher is not limited to her work with her own class. As Head of Primary School Canan Coskun explains, “her dedication, compassion and care put into students [with behavioural problems] was commendable and she went to great lengths to cater for these students as well as others who were not in her class. She has even taken a high school student under her wings and has enabled him to find stability in his learning and grow as a student.”

“Apart from being a compassionate and caring teacher, Melisse goes to great lengths to promote and instil in her students the qualities of acceptance and harmony and always models this in her daily life at Wisdom. She is a teacher who not only embraces the cultural and religious background of her students but is very passionate about actively demonstrating this on a daily basis, and is very proactive in sharing her strategies and endorsing it within our school,” Canan says.

“A great strength demonstrated by Melisse is her ability to collaborate with others. Melisse is in constant collaboration with all staff members and always open to ideas and suggestions in her teaching. She is a great team player and always the first to put her hand up in any situation where help is needed around the college. She has a true desire to make positive change around the college and will sacrifice her time and energy for what she believes is best for the students.”

Melisse quickly took up the role of the school’s choir teacher when it was needed, expanding the choir to include all year levels.

She has also initiated sessions in which Year 5 and 6 girls make jewellery together. The time is also designed to provide a safe space for students to discuss any challenges they might be facing.

In her teaching practice, Melisse goes ‘above and beyond’. Nowhere is this more evident than in her work with individual students. For instance, when Melisse has had students with severe behavioural and emotional issues, she works closely with the parents to implement a range of strategies at home and at school to support the student.

Melisse’s vision is to help every child grow and develop to their fullest potential. She delivers on this vision by providing students with a safe, stimulating and encouraging setting to consolidate, encourage and extend their development. It takes a special teacher to uphold a practice characterised by constant cultural sensitivity, curiosity and endless compassion.

Congratulations Melisse on being shortlisted for the TEACHX Outstanding Contribution to School Community Award.

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