What does it take to be an excellent teacher? More than you think, writes Kristie Kellahan.
David Roach says success as an educator is about building on personal strengths.
Recently honoured with the Minister's Award for Excellence in Teaching, he credits the award to his school rather than his endeavours.
Roach, head teacher of Special Education at Mudgee High School, teaches a variety of life skills subjects both in the junior and senior syllabus.
"Special Education caters for students across years 7 to 12 who have intellectual or emotional disabilities or autism," he says.
"I particularly enjoy teaching mathematics and food technology as well as developing individual communication skills."
Roach was one of 25 teachers to receive the award from the NSW Department of Education and Communities. He was lauded for his work at Mudgee and for mentoring rural teachers from other schools.
Roach says there are a number of factors required to be an excellent teacher and mentor.
"You need to have a deep understanding of the subject or curriculum you teach.
"Teachers have to be excellent communicators, so that they can converse with students at their level of understanding. They should also set high expectations and goals which are appropriate to student ability. It is important to give clear, explicit feedback to students and for them to have the opportunity to put this feedback into practice."
An excellent teacher also needs to be well organised and prepared, while still seizing key learning opportunities, Roach says.
An educator for many years, Roach says teaching is a profession that is continually changing as it addresses the needs of students. "We need to embrace new technologies and prepare students to be life-long learners so that they can be productive members of a global world."
Roach says his beliefs and methods of teaching have been enhanced by the team nature of working with other quality teachers. "We collaboratively develop teaching strategies and approaches to meet the varying demands of students."
Having children of his own has influenced his teaching.
"It has reinforced my values, especially regarding participation, regardless of the student's ability.
"Application and effort is essential in reaching potential so you can follow your dreams," he says.
His advice for new and beginning teachers is to ensure that whatever they do has a positive influence on their students.
"Be passionate about teaching and have love for your profession," he says. "Believe that you make a difference to the students you teach and believe all students deserve the best you can offer, regardless of their personal circumstances. You are a role model for young, inquiring minds, so set your own standards high and have the same expectations for your students.
"Teaching is a great profession; be passionate about it and help develop the next generation," he says.