OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TEACHING
For over 45 years, Sue Rheinberger has been “bringing it” to the classroom.
Introducing classical music and poetry to History lessons, playing rap in Geography and organising students to revegetate a section of fragmented rainforest, Ms Rheinberger is deeply committed to delivering the best teaching she can for her students.
The inspirational St Patrick’s College Townsville teacher, who is passionate about providing opportunities both inside and outside the classroom for students to learn “about the world and who they are capable of becoming,” is a finalist for the Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award.
“I love bringing music, drama and visual arts into my lessons,” Ms Rheinberger said. “I think that makes a huge difference to how students respond to what they learn … it moves them, and they know it in a different way, understand at a deeper level.”
Teaching World War I history, she uses paintings like Arthur Streeton's Gas Alert, classical music like Benjamin Britten's War Requiem as well as popular music of the time, and poetry like Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est.
“In Geography, we gain insights into wellbeing in central West Africa from rapper Lupe Fiasco’s Conflict Diamonds, and a women’s band, Les Amazones d'Afrique, fighting for gender equality,” Ms Rheinberger said.
Always looking for a new approach, Ms Rheinberger creates too, writing environmental songs like Blue-Green Algae Blues, and one with a Latin beat to teach literary devices.
The cocurricular and extracurricular realms are very important in expanding students’ views of themselves and their connection to the wider world, she believes. An advocate of learning about the world out in the world, Ms Rheinberger has led several environmental initiatives and organised countless field trips – “from Japan to just around the corner”.
She has encouraged shy students to mimic her to gain confidence, mentored others through public speaking competitions, and been an Opti-MINDS judge.
Ms Rheinberger acknowledges the ‘realities’ as well as the ‘joys’ of teaching.
“Teachers make the plan, set the scene and ‘bring it’ to the classroom,” she said. “And ‘bringing it’ means your whole self – your patience, personality, expertise and love of learning. It’s a totally engaging job.
Having witnessed 40 years of educational change, Mrs Rheinberger advises pre-service teachers to “learn to dance on a shifting carpet”. “The only constant,” she notes, “is the need to stay current and committed”.
One of her greatest pleasures is her relationship with the many past students who drop in or send messages appreciating what she has added to their lives.
“It’s profoundly satisfying to have guided students to evolve into resourceful people who can engage creatively, confidently and compassionately with the world,” reflected Mrs Rheinberger.
“That’s the legacy of teachers,” she said. “Our work is our gift to the future.”
Ms Rheinberger attributes her 30-year longevity at the College to the professional integrity, collegiality and joy of the staff she has worked with, and values the social and cultural diversity of the school. And they, according to Principal, Amber Hauff, are very lucky to have her.
Winners of the TEACHX Awards will be announced on October 28, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day celebrations in Queensland. Finalists win $500 and winners $5000 for professional development.