Winner — Sophie Gruhl

EXCELLENCE IN BEGINNING TO TEACH

A Logan beginning teacher who has made an extraordinary impact on her students and school community in just 18 months has won a prestigious state teaching award.


Since 2019, Mabel Park State High School (MPSHS) teacher and Netball Excellence Coach Sophie Gruhl has taken the school’s first Indigenous netball team to a tournament and has organised a second-hand shoe drive with her local gym, through which she obtained over 50 pairs of high quality shoes for students to play in. She organised a Year 12 ‘Big Day Out’ in a successful attempt to increase attendance and decrease truancy, taught Muslim students how to float in a lake for the first time, managed a girls’ Metropolitan East Rugby League team and organised the Year 9 celebration evening. She was appointed the school’s Years 11 and 12 Coordinator from this year after she showed an exceptional grasp for differentiating student learning and an ability to build strong relationships with students.


Miss Gruhl was named the winner of 2020 Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award. It comes as Queensland celebrates World Teachers’ Day.


Her dedication to lifting students’ expectations of themselves and to raising their self-esteem has helped fuel student achievement and success.


“I do what I can with every moment I see the students, whether that is with my students who I teach, my seniors who I coordinate or the students I know from lunch-time chats,” Miss Gruhl said.


“Each interaction is an opportunity to teach the important things: kindness, generosity, self-respect and respect for others, dignity, leadership, and courage. I have the opportunity to change a student’s life without them realising it.”


The Science, Mathematics, Digital Technologies and Health and Physical Education teacher is also a GEMS (Girls Excelling in Maths and Science) Leader and was appointed a Curriculum Leader for the school’s inaugural Year 9 iMPact class – a Year 9 one-to-one device class, in which students are provided opportunities to leverage technology.


When COVID-19 hit and the school community ran out of hand sanitiser, Miss Gruhl innovatively planned consecutive Science lessons to teach her students about how germs spread and followed up with a practical lesson making hand sanitiser. The students’ hand sanitiser was then shared with the entire school and news of the innovative lesson saw Education Queensland International (EQI) publish an article on it and film a duplicate micro-teaching lesson so it could be shared more broadly.


To develop her understanding of Polynesian culture to better understand her students, Miss Gruhl undertook professional learning in Samoa at her own expense.


When she wanted to improve her ability to deliver Indigenous perspectives for students, she contacted respected local Indigenous elders for guidance and welcomed them into her class to connect with students.


This year, Miss Gruhl joined the MPSHS Aspiring Leadership group and has led wellbeing activities and knowledge-sharing sessions for staff.


While Miss Gruhl has shown a tireless commitment to making a difference for her students, she said it was the small things that had made some of the biggest impacts.


“I’ve taken little aspects from what I enjoyed about my schooling, for example, having matching team ribbons [for students’ hair] and celebrating student’s birthdays in my form class with a cake… these little things that make the kids feel special are what makes such a difference,” Miss Gruhl says.


Congratulations Sophie on being the winner of the TEACHX Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award.

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