This year’s theme for World Teachers’ Day is “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”.
To celebrate, meet Gloria Zahra, one of our dedicated teachers at the Berry Street School. She has over 25 years’ experience in the education space and has worked in various school settings.
To Gloria, a great teacher is one who is “ready to learn and be on the journey with a young person."
What’s your favourite part about being a teacher?
My favourite part of teaching is the ability to positively impact a young person’s life for the better. Particularly for me it’s about the opportunities that I can create for the students that I am privileged to work with and meet. Fostering positive, authentic relationships, having high expectations and being a mentor and a resource for my students enhances and supports their learning both inside and outside of the classroom.
Describe a time where you've made a positive difference to a young person.
I’ve had so many wonderful experiences with young people over time. In particular, I enjoy looking at pathways for young people and inspiring them to follow their passions. I remember a young girl who wanted to become a journalist; I was so happy when I saw her on the news as a reporter years later. I spoke to her afterwards and she said it was because of me that she followed through with her dream.
I’ve worked with a student recently at the Berry Street School and I’ve been able to get to know her and talk about pathways. For me, that’s really exciting. The role makes you step up as an educator and think critically about what you offer young people.
How do you use the Berry Street Education Model in your teaching and what benefits have you seen?
The Berry Street Education Model (BSEM) underpins everything I do as a teacher. For example, I recently taught a unit which looked at identity. I thought deeply about the relationship aspect of the BSEM model and wanted to focus on human connection. The students wrote their own story and then profiled other people and drew connections from them.
When I talk about people who have gone through adversity, I aim to help the students reflect on themselves. We recently looked at Adam Goodes’ story and many of my students resonated with his experience of bullying. They’re able to recognise their commonalities and say, “this happened to me” or “I can relate to that character”. Once they make that connection with another person, it shows them that everything will be okay. I always try to demonstrate that it’s not always about the now, it’s about what can be.
Given the current situation with coronavirus, what sorts of challenges have you experienced with your role?
Teaching remotely was particularly challenging in the first lockdown. We had to be very creative in developing online classes that young people could engage with. As a teacher who is very energised by my students, I found the limited interaction difficult.
During the second lockdown it has been much easier as our students have been onsite, and we’ve had excellent attendance.
What’s one change that you’d like to see that could reimagine the future of education?
An issue we see in education is that one-size-fits-all doesn’t really work. That’s why it’s so important to find programs that accommodate the individual needs of each student. Whatever the current climate, a great teacher shows that they are ready to learn and be on the journey with that young person. The change would not be in the education system itself, but for teachers to really understand how their students learn and to cater to their individual needs.