Message from the Branch President, Kirk Zwangobani
Dear ACEL ACT members,
I hope this newsletter finds you well, at the start of our last week of term and the fifth week of lockdown. It seems like ‘shout outs’ have become the new norm, so it would be remiss of me not to give a ‘shout out’ to the school leaders, educators, support staff, and students in our schools. They have once again shown an amazing agility and capacity in pivoting to remote learning this term.
I would also like to give a special shout out to ‘middle leadership’ or what ACEL Queensland call, ‘pivotal people’. These may not necessarily be people in official leadership positions but who, nevertheless, are key influencers in securing better learning outcomes for students. I know in my school, the transition to remote learning would have been arduous without their innovative ideas and impromptu leadership.
The uncertainty of what Term 4 - 2021 will look like is a stark reminder that the challenges of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the ACT and across the eastern seaboard are still very real. At this month’s ACEL ACT Branch Exec meeting, it was great to share ideas about what is working well and what we need to improve on in this new chapter of COVID-19. I hope that all of you as members are finding the time through your networks to do the same. And please, take time this break to take it easy, recharge and reflect, as next term will be a test of leadership for all of us.
I would like to give a quick plug for the ACEL Online Conference (Wednesday 29/Thursday 30 September). I am fortunate enough to get a sneak peak of each issue of the AEL Journal before its release. The upcoming issue shares the same theme as the conference - Leading Excellence through Equity. If the lead articles of this issue are anything to go by then the conference is sure to put a spotlight on how now more than ever, our leadership must focus on equity if we strive for excellence. It should be a lively couple of days of discourse, discussion, and debate.
As is now customary, I would like to introduce Tabatha Kellett, one of our ACT Branch Executives.
Tabatha has led an exceptional career in education spanning early intervention, P-10, and the ACT college system. During her teaching years, Tabatha worked with students with diverse backgrounds including refugees and students with a disability and has used her influence to implement best practice when working with diverse learning needs. Tabatha’s research has contributed to improving strategies for building an inclusive and positive school culture, and she shares her evidence-based practice at national and international conferences.
Tabatha is currently the Deputy Principal at Melba Copland Secondary School, prior to which she was the Deputy at The Woden School. .
ACEL Leadership: Tabatha Kellett
One of the most significant and ongoing changes during my years as an educator has been the transition from the ‘Disability Education’ focus I was taught in my undergraduate studies in the 1990’s to the ‘Inclusive Education’ focus in my 2015 Masters’ degree. At the international, national, and local levels the developments in legislation, policy and practice are designed to improve opportunities for all young people in our schools and strengthen their transition to post-school life.
My understanding of ‘Inclusive Education’ has since been challenged with the provocation to examine my definition of ‘Mainstream Education’. It flipped my thinking from students being somehow ‘included’ in our education system, to education systems - schools, staff, and programs - being ‘inclusive’, ready to welcome all students.
In the ACT, the Future of Education Strategy (2018-2028) states for our young people in our schools: “A strong sense of belonging is understood as a prerequisite to achievement.” I was again re-focused by the The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (2019) that “All young Australians become confident and creative individuals who…have a sense of belonging, purpose and meaning that enable them to thrive in their learning environment.”
In practice this means knowing the students and their families, and all staff having the professional learning and mindset to value diversity. ‘Inclusive Education’ is a process so it also means seeking feedback, intentional evaluation, and being prepared to adapt to meet the needs of all students through personalised education pathways.
As a school leader, my goal is to ensure our definition of ‘mainstream’ continues to be inclusive of our wonderfully diverse school community. I strive to inspire a culture that values a sense of belonging and embed universal practices that are authentically inclusive.
I feel fortunate to have opportunities to collaborate with such an incredible network of colleagues in the ACT and across Australia and look forward to learning with you into the future.