Catherine back at school with scholarship

St Johns College Woodlawns acting curriculum co-ordinator Catherine Byrnes (pictured) has a renewed enthusiasm for teaching after learning a swag of new techniques at a US conference involving around 2000 teachers.

Catherine was one of just three Australians who were awarded scholarships to the Summer Academy at the Kagan Institute for Cooperative Learning Structures in Orlando, USA. There, teachers became students themselves and spent time in the classrooms refreshing their approach to teaching.

It was really exciting, she said. The course was very intensive, but practical we were engaged in the same way as students are, increasing our capacity to learn. Its like making new structures in the brain.

Catherine was delighted with the opportunity to network with other teachers from the US, the UK and the Netherlands.

Now back home, she will be helping Australian teachers with their professional development, passing on the inspiration from the Summer Academy and her teaching hero, Spencer Kagan.

Around 40 per cent of the teachers at our school have invested time in Kagans training, Ms Byrnes said. The content doesnt change, its the approach to teaching. Kagan is about brain-based learning, getting students deeply engaged and ultimately taking responsibility for their own learning.

The teacher is not the fountain of all knowledge in the classroom. We foster a mutual respect and tolerance, and a co-operative learning approach where we acknowledge two heads are often better than one.

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