Passionate teacher Michelle Ragen is instilling the importance of learning and community service in the next generation of young men at Brisbane Grammar School (BGS).
Ms Ragen’s ability to engage boys in learning and her championing of professional development are just some of the reasons she is a finalist in this year’s Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellence in Teaching Award.
Enjoying a diverse career in education, Ms Ragen first taught in the small country town of Atherton. She has also served as an Education Officer in the Australian Army, teaching literacy skills to soldiers from all over the country.
Her early teaching roles emphasised the value of professional development and reinforced the need to personalise student learning, make a connection and work towards outcomes. These are lessons she carries in her work at BGS. Ms Ragen said some of the best advice she has received in her 18 years at BGS is to teach the individual student. “Regardless of what you’re teaching, you’re teaching the students, you’re considering their development and you’re considering what they need.”
With that advice in mind and building upon previous experience, the English teacher gets to know her students and what engages them. “It’s essential that students develop the ability to think independently, so they can make critical, well-informed decisions and contribute meaningfully to society,” she said.
“As a teacher at an all-boys school, ensuring our students are active participants in their learning is a priority. We create complex learning tasks that require collaboration and independent thinking. Through structured, cooperative learning tasks, our students are encouraged to share their views and offer feedback to each other. This assists the boys to refine their thinking skills and develop their confidence.”
Ms Ragen aims to instil a sense of public purpose in her students and has led them in fundraising for the World’s Greatest Shave and the World Vision Backpack Challenge. BGS has raised almost $100,000 for World Vision over the past three years.
Community service has been modelled by Ms Ragen over the years, an example is when she went to Dili to teach English to East Timorese adults for two weeks in 2000. In more recent years, she has joined BGS students by participating in the Backpack Challenge.
Being nominated by her peers for the TEACHX Excellence in Teaching Award has led her to reflect on 28 years of teaching. The former English Teachers Association of Queensland (ETAQ) executive member is grateful for her career so far and is still inspired to improve learning experiences for students.
In 2011, Ms Ragen received the ETAQ Peter Botsman (school category) Award for exemplary contribution to and excellence in English education in Queensland.
As a finalist, Ms Ragen received $500 for professional development.