Teacher judged best vocational trainer in the nation

A North Coast high school teacher, with multiple roles in her school, has been voted the best vocational education and training teacher in Australia.

Image: Sarah Ford with students and the new mob of sheep.

Sarah (Sally) Ford, who teaches a number of VET courses at the Rivers Secondary College, Richmond River High Campus, received the prize at the Australian Training Awards held recently in Brisbane.

Her principal, Mary-Jane Pell, described Sally as a “remarkable VET teacher” who contributes widely to the school community in other roles.

“Sally is a versatile teacher who can teach a range of VET classes including Primary Industries, Agriculture and Hospitality,” Ms Pell said.

“She is also the Technological and Applied Studies Head Teacher, school community connections coordinator and school farm manager.

“Sally has demonstrated a commitment to the continual development and improvement of VET, which is reflected in Richmond River’s HSC results for Primary Industries in 2018 that were well above average.”

Ms Ford said supporting the needs of all students is a priority, from those who have identified learning needs through to those who are gifted and need to be extended.

“Professionally, I am always trying to develop my skills and industry knowledge so I can effectively teach the agriculture course to industry standards,” she said.

One of Ms Ford’s great initiatives at the school has been to implement the Schools Merino Wether Challenge in 2018.

“We are traditionally a cattle school so introducing merino cross sheep into our program has been a huge initiative,” she said. “Students have been able to develop a whole new animal husbandry skillset around sheep management.

“For students who are afraid of cattle or have never handled a large animal it can be intimidating. They’re not as scared of sheep as some are of cattle.”

Sustainable farming practices are also a key focus of Ms Ford’s teaching practice.

“We need to be developing and teaching about industries that are suited to our regions,” she said.

“VET subjects in Primary Industries need to be teaching students about sustainable best practices that will reduce the impact of our unpredictable weather patterns on farming enterprises.

“Our students have to understand about water conservation, sustainable farming concepts like minimum tillage, crop rotation and cover crops.

“This will ensure our students develop and demonstrate environmentally sustainable practices that are going to be profitable,” Sally said.

The Rivers Secondary College Executive Principal, Greg Smith, also applauded Ms Ford’s win. “As well as being recognition for the amazing work she does, she has shown what can be achieved in public education and by the dedicated staff in our incredible college.”

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