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Terri Barton-Thomas


In the 1990s, teacher Terri Barton-Thomas was instrumental in, and a public face of, the Queensland Teachers Union’s campaign to have the government introduce paid maternity leave for all female teachers. Those efforts, which the working mother-of-three was pleased to see lead to successful reform of working conditions for all public service employees, are indicative of her lifelong intent to support others in her profession.

Years later, as COVID-19 has caused disruption to schools, day care centres, and after-school programs and led to a switch to online learning, Terri worked with Principal Susan Dalton as a member of Miami State High School’s (MSHS) Local Consultative Committee (LLC), and as a union member, to enact workplace reform and flexible working arrangements. The LLC’s quick actions maintained staff productivity and maximised student engagement throughout the crisis.

Terri began teaching in 1985 at Blackwater State High School, a mining community 190 kilometres west of Rockhampton. There she also taught students from the nearby Aboriginal community of Woorabinda.

Later, while working at Toolooa State High School in Gladstone, she organised many charity events, including the ‘Train Trip to Nowhere’ in which passengers travelled to a local establishment in the small town of Many Peaks to see a band perform. The extra business the event brought to the town was greatly appreciated. Her community spirit continues: recently her Year 7s donated pet food to a small regional town declared drought-stricken.

At her next school, Albany Creek State High School, Terri served on the committee to design the Middle School Building and redevelop the curriculum and pedagogy. She presented a paper for the Middle Years of Schooling Association at an international education conference.

Terri constantly has her students achieve improvement in their writing, coaches and mentors them in literary competitions and keeps a look-out for external opportunities.

Recently one of her students won the 2020 Story Fest National Novel Writing Competition, where the winner travelled to Victoria to learn from best-selling author John Marsden. She also coaches debating, Model United Nations Assembly (MUNA) and Tournament of the Minds (TOMs) teams. Her Humanities TOMs team won the South East Queensland Region title. Presently her MUNA team await competition at a national level having been very successful at the regional level.

Terri continues to provide authentic, imaginative and immersive learning experiences for her students. One example is a unit on ancient Egypt in her Year 7 Academic Excellence Humanities class.

Students were tasked with creating a museum exhibit of Tutankhamun’s tomb, using only recycled materials. The groups also had to design a website for the museum and make sure the practical exhibit could be patronised by students with special needs, including those needing wheelchair access. Displays had to be interactive and cater for people with visual and hearing impairments.

Different teams researched and created displays that touched upon the River Nile, literature, food and construction methods of the time. Students developed greater autonomy and empathy and improved their skill in teamwork, problem solving and speaking in front of an audience.

Terri performs in costume as literary characters for interactive classroom activities that inspire her English students.

Observing one of Terri’s Year 10 English lessons, the Assistant Regional Director, Darren Scott, said it was, “One of the best examples of engagement I have seen in a classroom.”

In 2019, Terri’s Year 7 Humanities class competed in the Education Perfect Humanities World Series Competition. MSHS students competed against 300,000 students from 28 countries. Globally they achieved a ranking of 53rd out of 2,200 schools, 35th out of 894 Australian schools and 9th in the state out of 173 Queensland schools.

As an experienced teacher Terri has redeveloped English, Geography and History programs over the years to align with new syllabuses. She fosters peer feedback amongst work colleagues and shares with other schools. She led a Teaching and Learning Team (TLT) in 2019 and continues to mentor beginning teachers and be involved in professional development.

She served ten years on the Gold Coast QCAA Panel of Geography teachers and has contributed articles to the Queensland Geography Teachers’ Association newsletter.

Over the years Terri has been a representative of the QTU at local, regional and state level, served as Chairperson of the Albany Creek State High School Staff Council, coordinated the Student Representative Council and been a year-level and subject area coordinator. She was previously shortlisted for a National Excellence in Teaching Award as well as being recognised by Griffith University for her contribution to preservice teachers.

“Above all Terri is an outstanding practitioner who simply loves her students and loves her job as a teacher,” Susan says.

Congratulations Terri on being shortlisted for the TEACHX Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award.

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