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Community Connections

FUTURE BRIGHT: BUILDING A COMMUNITY OF EDUCATORS

Future Bright panellist Kerrie Heath tells us how education can continue to develop in an online world.

Clinical Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Canberra, Kerrie Heath, says that as a teenager, she never wanted to be a teacher.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and Kerrie has had a successful career as a teacher, a principal, worked in various roles in the ACT Education Directorate and as an academic.

Kerrie joined the Australian Army as an Officer Cadet and made her way to Canberra from Townsville in 1990.

She worked in a few different industries but never really found ‘her fit’.

Despite having no intentions to teach, when she had two children Kerrie decided that as a mother, teaching might be a flexible career path, so that she could have more time to be present with her kids and time off in holidays.

“Of course, that wasn’t the case,” laughs Kerrie.

“But from the first time I walked into a school, I just knew it was the perfect environment for me.”

Kerrie says she has been fortunate to have an amazing, diverse career where she has been able to work across different schools, in the ACT Education Directorate, and now at the University of Canberra where in her role, she still has the chance to work closely with local schools.

“One of the things I love about this career, is the ability to really have an impact on children’s lives,” Kerrie says.

“I feel very passionately that education is what can make a difference for every child.”

Kerrie took the position at UC to implement what would become known as the Affiliated Schools Program with colleague, Clinical Associate Professor Chris Morrissey. The Affiliated Schools Program is a shared vision and partnership for innovation, research and teacher professional development.

Implemented in early 2019, the program is already producing fantastic results, with a strong relationship between teachers and 25 ACT public schools, giving them the skills required to meet the needs and aspirations of public school students into the future.

“For me, the last couple of years has been really building a community of practitioners that goes from the school, to the ACT Education Directorate, to independent and Catholic schools and back to the University, while also including families,” Kerrie says.

“As a community, we work together with the government to think about what we really want education to look like.

“Collaboration and building community practice across all of these sectors in the ACT is an amazing opportunity.”

Kerrie played an important role in shifting education in the ACT online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, being a point of contact for both schools and the ACT Education Directorate.

“The directorate did an amazing job shifting students to online learning during a very difficult time,” Kerrie says.

“This came very hard and fast off the back of bushfires. I remember that one minute we were talking about how to support trauma informed learning in the school setting and how to support students who were affected by the fires either directly or indirectly and then all of a sudden we were in a position where we had to move students completely out of school and into their homes.”

Kerrie says she would like to think that there would be some positive innovation that comes from the COVID-19 pandemic experience and thinks we have the opportunity to learn some important lessons.

“I think there is a huge opportunity to utilise this experience and think about how our children can be more self-directed learners and how their learning can fit into what the future might look like,” Kerrie says.

“Do I think there will be a time when people are doing all of their learning online and not coming into school – no."

“But I think for high school and college years, where we might not have the staff to offer certain specialist programs, we are now a bit more open to partnering with specialists in their field so that students can have that amazing, passionate experience that we can’t offer them.”

Words by Katarina Slavich, photos by Madeleine Wood.

This year, UC is celebrating our 30th anniversary as a university.

Join comedian and TV personality Wil Anderson as he hosts UC’s 30th anniversary celebration with the virtual UnCover event Future Bright Facebook Live on Friday 6 November from 7.30pm. RSVP here.

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