Thomas Patterson


A former builder and carpenter is breaking down employment barriers and providing unprecedented opportunities for his students through an empowering program at Marsden State High School.

Just three years after he started teaching, Thomas Patterson, has created, developed and implemented the Mana@Marsden program, which is based on a Maori word meaning prestige, authority, control, power, influence and spirit.

His exceptional leadership and commitment to seeing his students succeed are just some of the reasons he has been named a finalist in the Queensland Teachers College inaugural Innovation in Teaching TEACHX Awards. 

Mr Patterson said he was inspired by the number of Pasifika students at his school, to develop a program which would help students take pride in their cultural heritage. 

Having mentored several apprentices through his previous career and having strong connections with the industry, Mr Patterson set about building strong relationships with local small businesses. Students are now attaining apprenticeships after graduation with some of these businesses as a result.

“Getting students into skilled and sustainable employment was a big thing for me. I’ve been around the construction industry for fifteen years and what I wanted to start seeing was Pasifika students turning into carpenters, electricians, plumbers, into business owners and creating sustainable employment pathways. Really getting students to understand that they can achieve these things,” Mr Patterson said.

Recently student leaders camped at Stradbroke Island engaging with local elders to gain a better understanding of Indigenous culture. The next week they were with the Redlands Shire Council discussing a project.

“A 16-year-old student, to have that opportunity to sit down with Indigenous elders one week having a Yarning Circle, and being on country and getting to have that conversation, to then seeing a council office and being in a boardroom with a Councillor, town planners, environmental representatives – these are just amazing experiences,” he said.

“I’m a very strong believer in that relationships are the foundation of what we do as teachers. A great quote is, ‘If you don’t know me you can’t teach me.’ So, I think the foundation of teaching is getting to know your students.”

A few years back Mr Patterson was on a roof teaching an apprentice. Using basic maths and geometry, they figured out the calculations on a bit of a timber with a carpenter’s pencil.

It was a lightbulb moment for the builder and so he made his way to teaching, to Marsden and to Mana in every sense of that word.

Mr Patterson is proud of what Mana@Marsden has achieved saying it reflects on the team, the school and the support of the community. Most importantly for him, “That the students are aware that this is from their work. If they don’t’ engage with the program and they don’t’ see the value in it - you don’t acquire the success.”

As a finalist, Mr Patterson received $500 for professional development. 

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