Ruth MacLean


A former engineer who came to Australia to implement the 3G network and now helps to boost high school students’ results is a finalist in state teaching awards.

Over the past twelve years, Indooroopilly State High School (ISHS) Science and Physics teacher Ruth MacLean has forged a reputation for re-engaging students in their learning and lifting their NAPLAN results, as well as dramatically increasing peer observation and collaboration amongst staff at her schools. ​ In her previous school, Ipswich State High School, a large number of students were struggling to achieve National Minimum Standards (NMS) for NAPLAN numeracy results. As the Head of Whole School Numeracy, Mrs MacLean looked for trends in the data to identify hotspots, just as she had in her previous career. 

She introduced QuickSmart, a University of New England program which centred around responsive small-group intervention to improve the learning experience of at-risk students in Year 7.  QuickSmart saw the number of students achieving NMS increase from 76.3 per cent to 96.1 per cent. Mrs MacLean is pleased to see the program, continues today and now incorporates literacy intervention.

Since 2016 Mrs MacLean has been working at ISHS, developing a new Physics program that has seen an increase in student enrolment and success.

She is also part of the Learning and Teaching team, with the number of teachers observing each other doubling, leading to more feedback, collaboration and growth.

Mrs MacLean said she was touched that she was being acknowledged by her teaching peers, citing collaboration with others as invaluable. “There’s a wealth of knowledge in schools. The work that I have been able to do is the direct result of collaboration with other teachers,” she said.

She said one piece of advice offered to her by a Head of Department has stayed with her.

“To every challenge or every adversity there is an opportunity for growth. Even if it takes you some time to see that path. To not be too disheartened in the moment and to see what it is that you can learn from that and take that forward,” she said.

Mrs MacLean said it was particularly satisfying to teach young people from Years 8 to 12 and help them grow.

As a teenager growing up in Belfast, she went to her parents in Year 10 and advised them that she wanted to follow in their footsteps and become a teacher. They told her they weren’t sure it was a great idea, so she went into electrical engineering and ended up working for Nokia.

Now they are pleased to accept that ultimately their daughter made the right choice.

As a finalist, Mrs MacLean received $500 for professional development.

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