Gae Masters and Christopher Mills with Page MP Janelle Saffin and their awards.
Gae Masters and Christopher Mills with Page MP Janelle Saffin and their awards.

Teachers get tick for excellence

It’s official. The Northern Rivers region has excellent teachers.

Two teachers from Richmond River High School have received high commendations for ‘Excellence by a Teacher’ in the national Australian Awards for Teaching Excellence. Gae Masters and Christopher Mills received their awards at a ceremony in Parliament House last month for exceptional teachers who are making a difference to the lives and opportunities of young people.

“Winning this peak acknowledgement for teaching is huge kudos for Richmond River and regional Australia,” Ms Masters said. “The nominations were anonymous. I think it’s incredible that out of the whole of Australia, a public school in the country had two successful nominations.”

Teacher Christopher Mills received his commendation for making mathematics understandable and fun, while Gae Masters was cited for her work in pioneering school programs which respect culture and promote success for all students.

“Richmond River High School has allowed us to foster our own passions and work within teams to facilitate special programs which have led to our nominations,” Ms Masters said.

Her work with Aboriginal students, students with learning difficulties and students from low socio-economic backgrounds has achieved positive results.

“With Aboriginal students, we need to focus on closing the gap with literacy and look at what makes kids come to and stay at school,” she said. “Over the last two to three years, my focus has been to implement Aboriginal perspectives in all classrooms and encourage other teachers to incorporate them into their own teaching and learning programs for all students.”

Ms Masters said that this year, a mandatory period called ‘Cultural Studies’ had been introduced into the curriculum for Year 8 students.

“Students look at local, national and international Indigenous peoples and at issues which affect them like education, health and the media portrayal of Indigenous peoples,” she said. “The idea came from Aboriginal students who said that all students needed to learn this.”

Ms Masters said that through teamwork, other new programs had also been successfully introduced into the school. ‘Positive Behaviour for Learning’ introduces care rules such as having responsiblity, respect, honesty and safety for each other and ‘Dreaming Tracks’ had been introduced into the Year 8 English curriculum.

“Dreaming Tracks takes students on a journey into Aboriginal legends and stories and brings them into the world now, making it real,” she said. “Here, I work as part of a team, building a set of positive behaviours we expect to see in school.”


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