She’s cried with them, celebrated with them, climbed the Story Bridge with them, challenged and ‘prodded’ them and now, almost 40 years after she started at Moura State High School, Norah Parsons’ journey with students includes teaching the grandchildren of former pupils she taught decades ago. Mrs Parsons is a multi-award winning educator and community “icon” in her mining town where her dedication to students and her selflessness is legendary. Now she has won the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) TEACHX Award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching, for her extraordinary commitment to her students and the school community. Mrs Parsons, who also won the 2016 Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute Choose Maths Award after a group of former students wrote in about the difference she made in their lives, never gives up on a student.
“My passion, my gift or my speciality is getting kids to do better than they think they can; it’s relationships, it’s building their confidence, it’s working with them through their journey as slow as that needs to be or as fast as that needs to be,” Norah says.
“I don’t accept kids having half a go,” she says. Equally, she works with them for hours after school if they are having trouble with a concept or an assignment. “Their success is my success,” she says.
Mrs Parsons works tirelessly to bring students “every opportunity that we have on offer”. She even drives a bus to Brisbane for a “Beyond the Boundaries” trip, which exposes students to universities and cultural experiences, including Queensland Theatre workshops set up just for them and climbing the Story Bridge.
Mrs Parson’s dedication and experience has led to outstanding success for students. Since she became the Senior School Head of Department in 2015, all Year 12 students have attained a Queensland Certificate of Education. Every student studying Mathematics A or B in 2013 to 2018 has received a grade of A-C under the exceptional mathematics teacher. They are also connected with mentors and work experiences far and wide to enable future careers.
This year Mrs Parsons mentored the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA) Outstanding Indigenous Student of the Year and a QMEA Outstanding Student of the Year finalist. She says there is no ‘gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at MSHS, with some of their top academic-performing students being Indigenous students.
What she is most proud of is that parents have chosen to keep their children in Moura—rather than send them to a boarding school—knowing they will have the same opportunities, and the same access to excellent teaching, as anywhere else in Queensland.
Mrs Parsons, who has also won a National Excellence in Teaching Award, was announced as a winner at the TEACHX Awards at Customs House, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day celebrations in Queensland. She has also won $5000 for professional development.