Holy Family Catholic Primary School principal Kerry White has received hundreds of messages of congratulations since being recognised with a national teaching award but none has been more important to him than a parent who came up to him after assembly and said he was “really chuffed”.
For Mr White, these simple words symbolised what a huge impact the award has had on a school community with more than 50 different ethnic and cultural groups.
“We’re talking about a part of Adelaide where others are judgmental, this shows that the community itself can rise above that,” Mr White told The Southern Cross.
“To have external validation by an independent authority of the quality of education in this school is really significant…it’s not so much about me as the whole community.”
Mr White was the only South Australian to be awarded one of the 12 Teaching Fellows selected from 4000 entrants in the 2018 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards.
The award recognised Mr White’s innovative approach to education which has helped lift the academic performance at the Parafield Gardens school.
“When you mobilise the community with a sense of self belief, amazing things can happen,” he said. “It’s an issue of mindset.
“If teachers look at children and have any doubt in their mind about their ability to learn, then that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“The child will know if trust is there or not; our core value is trust.
“In education today there is a diminishment of trust, governments feel the need to interfere whereas if they were to provide schools with adequate resources and allow teachers to go about their work, good things would happen.”
Mr White said when he arrived at Holy Family 17 years ago, people thought the students, coming as they did from such diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, were behind the eight ball and wouldn’t be able to learn.
“But they bring to the table an incredible richness,” he said.
“When I came here, 48 per cent had English as an additional language, now it’s 78 per cent, so diversity has increased but the learning outcomes have risen.
“We see the children differently now, we don’t see them as lacking, we see them as replete with great capacity.”
The Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards are co-presented by the Commonwealth 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.”
The Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards is Australia’s largest award of its kind for educators, with each Fellow receiving a prize valued at $45,000 to assist with their professional development, roll out a new education project in their school, and take part in an overseas study tour to a high-performing education system.
Through a partnership between Schools Plus and the Varkey Foundation, the Teaching Fellows are also invited to apply for the Global Teacher Prize, which is valued at $US1 million.
Mr White acknowledged all those people – past and current leaders, staff, families and students – for “making me look good”.
“As a result of receiving this award it will bring wonderful opportunities to our school on a local, national and global level,” he added.
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