A passion for helping Indigenous children realise their potential has led Griffith University Master of Education student Susan Kersland to dedicate her life to ‘closing the gap’.
After graduating with an Honours degree in education, Susan taught in Brisbane for two years, then in March 2011 moved to the remote Cape York community of Laura, where in just a space of nine months, she helped to change the school culture and improved pupils’ retention rates.
“Teachers are being challenged to ‘close the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student outcomes, and I’m firmly committed to ensuring there is no gap,” Susan says.
Indeed, her work at the remote school was valued so highly by the local community she was nominated for a 2011 Pride of Australia Medal.
“I made the decision to come to Laura and work with Indigenous children as I wanted to be part of a small community and influence the lives of young people,” she said.
“Children need someone to believe in them and that’s what I’m here for. I want them to know they can achieve anything they desire.”
When she first arrived in the community, many of the children were not attending school.
“There was a real lack of engagement from them, so my first task was to sit down with parents, elders, staff and community members to find common goals that every person wanted the children to achieve.”
Susan returned to Brisbane this year and has now started work as a literacy consultant with Education Queensland.
In her new role, she will provide guidance to classroom teachers across the State in delivering quality literacy and numeracy teaching.
“I hope to improve NAPLAN results for Indigenous children. This work will also form the basis of my Master of Education which I’ve just started this year,” she said.
And as if this isn’t enough for one person, over the past three years Susan has also been involved with Education Queensland’s Summer School program which aids students aged between 10 and 12 in the areas of literacy and numeracy.
“The students have been identified through NAPLAN testing as needing additional assistance in these areas, and with a ratio of one teacher for eight students, they benefit from more one-on-one attention.”
“It’s an environment for learning where the children are able to engage in small group learning,” she said.