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NSW public school teachers dominate national awards

NSW public school teachers have been awarded six of 12 national fellowships announced today at the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards.

Teacher Yasodai Selvakumaran at Rooty Hill High School

Expanding our understanding of creativity: Yasodai Selvakumaran

NSW public school teachers have scooped the pool at the national Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards winning six of the prestigious fellowships on offer.

Among the NSW winners was Rooty Hill High School history teacher Yasodai Selvakumaran, who was just 10 months old when her parents migrated to Australia, and was later inspired to become a teacher by her own teachers at Bathurst High School.

The other NSW winners were:

  • Stacey Quince, Campbelltown Performing Arts High School principal
  • Ann Caro, Lithgow High School principal
  • John Goh, Merrylands East Public School principal
  • Peter Gurrier-Jones, The Hills School principal
  • Janeen Silcock, Ballina Coast High School principal

Education Minister Rob Stokes congratulated the recipients for being recognised by this prestigious award.

“I am delighted they will get the opportunity through this scholarship to further develop their professional skills and in turn improve the teaching, learning and leadership in their respective schools,” he said.

The Teaching Fellows were shortlisted from more than 400 education professionals from across the country.

Ms Selvakumaran’s Tamil parents settled in Hay in NSW’s Riverina after fleeing the war in Sri Lanka before moving to Bathurst when she was 10.

It was at Bathurst High School that Ms Selvakumaran’s ambition to become a teacher was nurtured.

“I could see the passion they had for their subjects and it really inspired me,” she said.

After completing her final student teacher practice at Rooty Hill High School, Ms Selvakumaran returned as an intern “because I could see the opportunities to learn”.

“I was blown away by the school’s focus on teacher professional learning and the strong leadership around building expertise,” she said.

Since joining the school’s staff in the last term of 2010 Ms Selvakumaran has not only embraced this professional learning, she now helps lead it.

A driving force behind her innovative approach is expanding what students and staff understand by the term “creativity” and she said she would use the award to further that work.

“Students associate creativity with something to do with the creative arts and they think if they aren’t good at those then they aren’t creative,” she said.

“But creative traits are also about tolerating uncertainty and about having adaptable thinking.”

Ms Selvakumaran and a colleague have developed this work on creativity in learning into the school’s Creative Inquiry Cycle, with the project trialled across 500 students studying history and geography.

It is work that has been noticed – in 2014 Ms Selvakumaran received the ACEL NSW Mary Armstrong Award for Young Educational Leader for inspiring classroom practice and her leadership of the school’s Aboriginal programs.

And last year she was recognised as an under-35 ‘rising star’ of Australian education by The Educator magazine for her commitment to her students and as a leader of other teachers.

Rooty Hill High School principal Christine Cawsey said the school was thrilled to see Ms Selvakumaran’s work recognised.

Ms Cawsey said Ms Selvakumaran had made a significant difference to the performance and aspirations of her students.

“Her contribution to our school’s Professional Practice Program as one of the eight professional practice mentors has built professional capacity at all levels of the school,” she said.

The Commonwealth Bank Teaching awards are co-presented by the bank and education charity Schools Plus.

Schools Plus CEO Rosemary Conn said the 12 new Teaching Fellows were changing the lives of thousands of Australian students through their creative and inspiring approaches to education.

“These extraordinary educators work in schools in vastly different communities but they share one view – that every child, no matter their background, has the ability to succeed,” Ms Conn said.

“By putting a spotlight on the incredible achievements of the Fellows, we hope their work will also inspire and influence teachers in classrooms right across Australia.”

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