Vanessa Duschka is not only an excellent practitioner in her visual arts classroom, she is a natural leader whose support for staff is an invaluable asset at Centenary State High School. Vanessa is a curriculum expert in the Visual Arts and uses her current and comprehensive knowledge of the relevant syllabus documents in addition to her vast repertoire of teaching strategies to develop and implement engaging learning and teaching programs. Vanessa knows her students well and can use this knowledge and her passion for the Arts to engage even the most disengaged student. Vanessa is an expert in selecting the most appropriate strategies for the students in her classroom.
For instance, for a class who chose visual arts because ‘there was nothing else to do’ Vanessa wrote a unit which required students to work collaboratively in areas of their own interest to create a permanent mural for the school – an experience which changed these students’ opinion of visual arts significantly. Her student-centred approach has resulted in the best outcomes for students – her work has seen an increase of 137 students into Visual Arts, and the excellent assessment data of her students is indicative of this. Vanessa’s influence doesn’t stop at the classroom. She is a school leader in professional learning, particularly for beginning teachers. Vanessa uses her expert knowledge to support colleagues to select and develop teaching strategies in order to improve student learning. Her own work is heavily informed by current research and her engagement with professional learning opportunities. As an active member of the Queensland Art Teachers Association, Vanessa is engaged with a diverse professional community from which she draws learning and new ideas for her visual arts classroom. She is also a member of the Centenary State High school teaching and learning committee, through which she has been able to engage in the Aspiring Thinking Network and Visible Thinking Professional Development. Further, Vanessa has modelled different strategies to staff, such as the QCAA Cognitive Verb Toolkit and high yield strategy, ‘Teaching for Thinking’ to colleagues. As a mentor for beginning teachers, Vanessa has co-planned and delivered professional development opportunities for beginning teachers to support the development of portfolios to achieve full teacher registration. She conducts several lesson observations with beginning teachers, which she follows-up with coaching conversations. These conversations assist beginning teacher to understand which areas of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers they need to focus on. More broadly, Vanessa has led colleagues across the school in the use of student data and evidence to guide the review and modification of curriculum materials. Vanessa’s commitment for ongoing learning and supporting others in their professional growth saw her encouraged by colleagues to apply for Highly Accomplished Teacher. Congratulations on your nomination, Vanessa.