Famous Aussies inspire teachers

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“If you can, then you must,” was the challenge presented by Max Walker, well-known sporting prodigy, at the New South Wales (NSW) CAPE/CASE (Curriculum for Adventist Primary/Secondary Education) meetings, held at Avondale School in April. “Service” was the theme for the two-day conference that more than 500 staff from Adventist schools around NSW attended. NSW CAPE/CASE is the annual professional development conference for staff working in Adventist schools across NSW and the Australian Capital Territory.
 

Education is the ‘silver bullet’. If the quality of change does not happen in schools, it won’t happen elsewhere.

Primary teachers curriculum workshop.

Each year, the CAPE/CASE conference offers professional development sessions that assist in improving quality in teaching in each key learning area. This year, training in up-to-date research and initiatives in education included the new Bible syllabus, brain learning and effective teaching, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the classroom, and instruction in Vocational Education Training (VET). Lectures, practical workshops and excursions provided variety and inspiration for all participants. Keynote presenters shared insights, gave encouragement and challenged participants to pursue excellence, value service and continue to look for effective ways of engaging students in the learning process.

Both days commenced with worship taken by Dr Peter Beamish, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Science at Avondale College. Participants were reminded of Matthew 25:40, where Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Service gives meaning to our lives and being a part of something bigger than ourselves provides a purpose. “Whatever service you are in, being connected to Jesus puts us in the best position to make a difference,” he said.
 

Art teachers curriculum workshop.

Increasingly, student-orientated community service programs are being incorporated into the broad curriculum of Australian high schools. It is understood that such programs have tangible benefits for students, communities and the schools themselves. Because Adventist schools operate from a Christian paradigm, they have an additional incentive of assisting students to give personal expression to spiritual commitment, through service to others.

Max provided an interesting and entertaining presentation where he talked about his involvement in service and sport. Max, who was named a member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his service, shared his philosophy of “If you can, you must” — a code he lives by.

Max’s involvement in Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC) has provided him the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of many children. He told stories of children from developing countries who have received life-saving and dignity-restoring surgery not accessible to them in their home country, and the difference it has made in their lives. “If you take nothing else away today,” he said, “trust yourself to test your limits. We can make an impact: go to it and make it happen!”

On the second morning, the award-winning journalist Ray Martin spoke with passion about his work with Indigenous people. In 2010, Ray was named a member in theGeneral Division of the Order of Australia in recognition for service to the community through various voluntary roles with charitable, Indigenous, health and sporting organisations. It was apparent that Ray has a heart for Aboriginal people with his tireless work that aims at closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. “To visualise where we are going, we must have a view in the rear-view mirror,” he said. “If we wish to service the Aboriginal children, we need to understand where they are coming from.” Ray’s sobering stories — such as seeing Aboriginal children hosed down before they were allowed to enter public swimming pools — were an example of the history that must be understood. The fact that Aboriginals experience a reduced life expectancy of twenty years, are 40 times more likely to get diabetes, and that Aboriginal women are 10 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence must be understood in the context of change and service.
 

From left: Ralph Luchow (Castle Hill Principal), George Spero (Currawah Principal), Ray Martin, Rohan Deanshaw (Kempsey Principal).

“Education is the ‘silver bullet’ to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians,” Ray said. “If the quality of change does not happen in schools, it won’t happen elsewhere.”

“There is a growing trend in education where schools are actively empowering their students to build better lives, better communities and a better world through service-learning,” said Marilyn Hansen, Associate Education Director of Adventist Schools (North NSW) and convenor of the conference. Both keynote speakers for the conference inspired staff to continue their work of serving others. “Making a difference isn’t going to be easy,” Ray said. “If it was easy, things would have been fixed years ago. But it is worth it! The alternative is to do nothing, and that is not an alternative.”

During question time when challenged by a staff member, Ray committed to personally visiting Macarthur Christian College. His love of people and his genuine desire to make a difference was evident in both his words and actions.
 

Marilyn Hansen (Associate Director of Education NNSW), Ray Martin, Glen King (Director of Education NNSW).

Professionals from both the education and business sector delivered a variety of relevant workshops and presentations over the two-day conference. Notable presenters included Dr Lee Sturgeon, Clinical and Developmental Psychologist from the Newcastle region, who talked with staff about recognising and working with autistic children, and Dr Phil Fitzsimmons, senior lecturer from Avondale College, who conducted a valuable workshop with the marketing staff on the analysis of qualitative data.

“This was my first CAPE conference in NSW,” said Tanya Wells, Year 3-6 teacher at Canberra Christian School. “I really enjoyed the high profile keynote speakers. They were both interesting and motivating. Another highlight was networking and catching up with other teachers and friends who I had not seen for several years. At times, you can feel a little isolated when working in a small school. It was great to see that we are part of a supportive network; we just need to ask if there is anything we need. I left the conference inspired about the difference I can make in the lives of my students.”

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