Hats off to Griffith Education Alumni

When it comes to rewarding careers, there are few that can beat the challenges and accomplishments of being a teacher.

While the profession requires patience, flexibility and understanding, the deep impact teachers can have on empowering and enriching the lives of children and their families extends far beyond the time they spend together, well into the future.

Griffith University is ranked in the Top 10 in Australia for teacher education, and with eight Griffith alumni being recognised in this year’s TEACHX Awards on 26 October, it’s not hard to see why.

Commencing in 2009, these awards exemplify the significant teacher contribution to schools and early childhood communities across Queensland, attracting thousands of nominations for registered teachers who have achieved exceptional outcomes.

Head and Dean of Education and Professional Studies Professor Frances Press said she was incredibly proud but not surprised by the success of Griffith alumni at this year’s awards.

Head and Dean of Education and Professional Studies, Professor Frances Press
Head and Dean of Education and Professional Studies, Professor Frances Press

“We’ve got some amazing academics leading our teaching courses here at Griffith who are really focused on preparing the teachers of tomorrow,” she said.

“Not only do we hone in on priority curriculum areas such as science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, we also value wellbeing and inclusive education.

“Our students learn to effectively engage their own students by setting the foundation for their own successful classroom, with our specialisations enabling students to advance their skills and passions.”

While teaching can often be perceived as just a classroom-based occupation, Griffith University alumnus Leo Hopkinson ensures his students get life experience outside as well, coordinating the Kokoda Youth Challenge for the school community.

The program sees participants hiking some of the harshest terrain on the East Coast of Australia, and has led to Mr Hopkinson earning the TEACHX Dr Joe McCorley OAM Outstanding Contribution to School Community Award.

“I’m particularly motivated to help the more challenging students who, for whatever reason, don’t cope well at school,” Mr Hopkinson said.

“Whether they’re in my class or in the playground, I provide opportunities for students to develop better strategies to cope with their challenging behaviours, and also build confidence and resilience to carry them through life.”

Now teaching for more than 14 years around South East Queensland, Mr Hopkinson commenced his journey as a mature-aged student.

Griffith alumnus and Edens Landing State School teacher Leo Hopkinson
Griffith alumnus and Edens Landing State School teacher Leo Hopkinson

“My experience as a father and as a coach for my son’s soccer team helped me see that kids respond best to learning when you form positive relationships with them, and this is what inspired me to become a teacher,” he said.

“I wanted to experience that satisfaction of really helping on a daily basis, and I felt being a teacher was a natural progression to fulfil this ambition.”

Other Griffith alumni to receive awards at this year’s TEACHX ceremony include:

  • Tara Barron: Leadership in Teaching for her work embracing all families and students and creating a culture of true inclusion
  • Anthony Brieschke: Innovation in Teaching for re-engaging students into the classroom through tasks involving animals, machinery or plants
  • Heather Crothers: Beginning to Teach recognising their efforts to support queer and disabled students to achieve their best and feel safe at school
  • Elisabeth Foster: Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning for collaboratively developing, articulating and enacting a vision of the future for her school and broader education community
  • Brendan Growden: Innovation in Teaching for developing the South East Queensland eSports League (SEQEL) and embedding eSports into the classroom curriculum
  • Lissa Gyte: Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning for ensuring professional learning is empowering for all colleagues, and her creation of a weekly podcast which has connected past pupils, the school community, and teachers with the school’s work
  • Gregory Jessep: Excellence in Teaching for transforming his students’ relationship with maths, using hands-on materials and instructional strategies to deepen their understanding.

The awards are being are hosted at the Queensland Conservatorium in partnership with the Queensland College of Teachers, reflecting the shared values of creating a brighter future for all.

Further, Education alumni Kiri Griffiths and Sara Curtis have also recently won Commonwealth Bank Teaching awards respectively for spearheading multiple initiatives to help nurture community pride and enhance student opportunities, and creating and leading incredibly successful programs to support teachers of all levels.