It is always a pleasure to be able to interview and obtain the 'personal' responses from outstanding teachers and rewarding to get their reactions after they receive special recognition for their teaching. The following is such an interview with Mara Robson who was nominated and received such recognition recently for her work with pre-school students at Pinjarra Pre-School in Pymble in Sydney, Australia. Her responses show why we need to reinforce the need to have many more of our excellent teachers receive recognition for outstanding contributions to their students.
Q: Prior to your nomination as an award winning teacher had you ever received special recognition for your teaching before?
A: I have previously been recognised as one of Australia’s most exceptional Early Childhood Education professionals by being nominated for the Outstanding Educator of the Year Award in 2012. This award was part of the HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards. More importantly, the recognition I receive from families of children past/present is what makes my job satisfying and worthwhile.
Q: Did you feel the recognition was for the good work you were doing with your class?
A: I believe so. I was chosen for this award because of the time and effort I put into creating an inclusive and positive classroom environment. I have a great passion in working with young children and have an amazing support network at my current centre, Pinjarra Preschool at Pymble on Sydney’s north shore. Also I believe it is the work I put in to mentoring and developing younger teachers.
Q: Who made the nomination for your recognition?
A: Their identity remains a mystery.
Q: What kind of responses have you received from your other teachers in your school building or other teachers in the school district?
R: The response has been overwhelming. It has been both positive and congratulatory. Whilst our work can be challenging at times but it is also very rewarding.
Q: How important is such recognition for teachers in your school and elsewhere?
A:I feel it is very important to receive special recognition for the work teachers do.
Q: What responses did you receive from your students? Your administrators and/or The Department of Education?
A: The students within my class are 4-5 year olds. Their responses were of excitement in letting me know they saw me in the newspapers. The parents were proud to show their children the article within the “North Shore Times” and the “Daily Telegraph”. A great achievement. The school’s administration showed gratitude.
Q: How did you feel when you learned you were being recognised for your teaching?
A: I was very surprised and appreciative, I don't know who made the nomination.
Q: Research has found some 50% of American K-12 schools not to have a recognition program. No such study has been done to our knowledge in Australia. Should this change in your opinion? Why?
R: I believe quality teaching practices should be rewarded. The work of many selfless and amazing teachers often goes unnoticed.
Q: Will other teachers support ‘recognition’ awards if they are given for their excellence in teaching?
A: Yes. I think they will.
Q: There is a push across several countries to move teacher future pay systems into merit pay. How do you and other teachers you know feel about this movement?
A: I believe, like in many other professions, a merit based approach may help to encourage and reward good teachers. However, the implementation of such a system may present difficulties. For example, the age group of students I teach, there is no standardized testing of children in Australia until they reach primary school. As a result many of the factors used to evaluate teachers will be qualitative.
Q: What else would you like to add for teachers in the in Australia, the UK and the USA relative to the importance of special recognition for excellence in their teaching?
A: I hope to see importance placed on the quality and hard work of those teachers who make the effort.
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About the Author
Dr Hans A Andrews is the Distinguished Fellow for Community College Leadership. He is the author of seven books on accountable teacher evaluation, the need for recognition for teachers, and dual-credit programs for high school students. His latest book, "Recognition vs. Merit Pay For Our Best Teachers" and his other works can be viewed at www.matildapress.com .
Dr Andrews can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org His most recent books are: "Recognition vs Merit Pay for Our Best Teachers";"Accountable Teacher Evaluation" and "Awards and Recognition for Exceptional Teachers".
Stephen Thomson, MACE- review in Professional Educator, Australian College of Educators
"The debate author Dr Hans Andrews puts forward is perennially valid and highly relevant in the current Australian education landscape. A school’s employees, in this case its teachers, need to feel appreciated and important to the school” -
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I was pleased to meet Mara Robson and director, Katy Jenkins who gave me a tour around Pinjarra Pre-school. The teachers at this school are not just enthusiastic, but passionate about their role in teaching and guiding their young students. The school has a warm and inviting atmosphere set in lovely grounds which include some of the latest equipment and some good traditional fun things too, a really good mix.
Katy explained how this school works. Younger children first go to their childcare centre at Gordon, in the next suburb, they then go onto Pinjarra Pre-School for a final year where the teachers prepare them for their transition to school. They learn to be self-sufficient, how to do everyday things they will need once they go to primary school as well as learning different subjects. If the students have friends from their childcare centre years and want to stay together, every effort is made to keep them in the same classroom.
Many of the skills they learn here are carried through to their primary school years, such as creating a spirit of caring, being nice to one another, no bullying , that it's okay not to always win at games and everyone has a chance to excel.
It was a delight to see the children who were happily learning through play. I saw one class immersed in their music lesson with all eyes focused on their music teacher.
Dr Hans Andrews has kindly given a gift of his book, "Recognition vs Merit Pay for Our Best Teachers" to Katy, Mara and Ashleigh (also featured) and I had the pleasure of presenting the books to them.
Look out for an upcoming article on Pinjarra Pre-Schools Dinosaur Garden, created by an enterprising parent, how she found sponsors and got the students involved to create it.
If you know of an outstanding teacher who deserves recognition, please let us know, use the contact form to do so.
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