1) Please tell us about your teaching experience before becoming a HALT.
I qualified as a primary teacher and after teaching in the primary context for almost 10 years, I moved into the secondary schools, so I have K-12 qualifications and experience.
My early years of primary teaching were in South African schools and I am grateful to the experience that I gained there. Teaching in South Africa in pre- and post-apartheid contexts proved to be challenging but rewarding; and my positive attitude, passion for supporting students to achieve their best and believing that anything is possible stems from my teaching experience in those challenging periods of change.
Upon arrival in Australia almost 22 years ago, I obtained qualifications in the TESOL and I taught at an Intensive English Centre – catering for the language and pastoral needs of overseas students and refugees. I continued to support students who were learning English as an additional language in various schools in the Catholic sector. Some schools had almost 95% of students from a language background other than English, so I created opportunities to empower colleagues with strategies and resources and soon became a Literacy Coach.
In 2019, I was seconded to the inner west Sydney Catholic Schools Regional Office where I led professional development and in school support for approximately 52 schools – both primary and secondary. I'm currently in a K-12 school teaching English and supporting students and parents who are from language backgrounds other than English.
2) Please describe your experience attaining HALT certification.
When I started the HALT accreditation process, I quickly realised that I had to be proactive to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge about the process. I did not have a large network to support me simply because it was a fairly new process, and little was known about how to proceed. I attended NESA workshops during the school holidays and my education sector organised a consultant to meet a few of us twice a year.
Although my experience in attaining accreditation proved to be a steep learning curve, it was the best experience in terms of developing my professional practice, knowledge, and expertise. I regard the experience as a high level of professional development which has resulted in total awareness of the impact of all my actions daily.
3) Why did you choose to become HALT certified?
In my role as EAL/D specialist and Literacy Coach I was responsible for building the capacity of colleagues. I enjoy developing new skills and acquiring knowledge that I could take into the classroom and when I heard about the HALT certification process I initially thought that this would be an effective process to evaluate my teaching practice.
I believed that the process would also be great to highlight shortcomings in my teaching practice so that I could further improve my knowledge and skills. My initial motivation to become a certified HALT was to engage in a process of personal reflection and evaluation of teaching practice.
When I started this process there was no monetary incentive and I had no knowledge of where the higher-level accreditation would lead. I was motivated to engage in this process to fuel my personal passion which is to be a highly effective educator who improves student outcomes.
Another reason why I chose the HALT pathway is because I found that teachers new to the profession often inquired about how they could fast track their careers. The advice they were offered was to get into school leadership positions as quickly as possible. Some did not master the craft of classroom teaching but were looking at leadership positions.
Moving into higher leadership positions was not necessarily my personal preference because leadership roles were becoming compliance-related positions that took teachers out of the classroom.
I wanted to lead change through improvement in student outcomes and by mentoring staff to build capacity in specialist areas such as EAL/D and literacy, while at the same time I wanted to have access to classroom practice.
4) Tell us how being a HALT has helped you, your career, your colleagues and students?
On a personal level, engaging in the process made me an expert in the standard descriptors, policies and procedures relating to accreditation, but the most rewarding experience for me was to be a classroom teacher (on paper), but to have the opportunity to visit schools (Darwin 2018), collaborate with principals, and school leadership on policies, to belong to networks and organisations across all sectors – this has been very rewarding and in many ways it's an opportunity that not many teachers or even school leadership experience.
In some of my school contexts I was not acknowledged as a HALT and this is because school leadership and some education sectors do not fully understand the magnitude of the accreditation process nor do they appreciate the value of having a teacher whose practice has been evaluated by external committees.
Recently, I moved to a school where school leadership is more aware of the higher levels of accreditation and I've been introduced to colleagues as a HALT. There is definitely a higher regard for this career stage in my current work place.
In terms of my career, I describe my progression in terms of layers. First layer I have grown in confidence and I have had many opportunities to network with colleagues from different sectors. This learning and professional development supports me to be not just be a teacher, but a leader who has made a difference to colleagues and students.
Other layers of my career development have been a bit disappointing only because some education sectors have not boarded this fast-moving accreditation train as yet. They are still standing in the station – deciding what to do – whereas other sectors are moving at a rapid pace to gain understanding and support colleagues.
I have created opportunities to further develop my knowledge and skills and have continued to build the capacity of colleagues. Some sectors have universities on board, and I know of universities who value the HALT accreditation to such an extent that they allow HALTs to mentor to students (regardless of other qualifications).
5) What are some of the challenges you encountered in attaining certification and how did you overcome them?
I was accredited as HALT in 2017 and that stage of HALT accreditation presented with many challenges. There were times when I felt as though I was swimming against the tide. The process of facilitating and supporting referees was challenging because there was no structure for this at a school/sector level.
Bostes was transitioning to NESA, so I had to apply for NESA numbers for my referees. Many colleagues who were out of school were reluctant to be referees as they knew little about the process and chose not to get involved. As I identified specific challenges I found practical solutions – for example I planned and facilitated professional development workshops for the principal, assistant principal and referees – focusing on the standard descriptors and the role and responsibilities of referees. NESA policy documents and workshops held during school holidays were very useful.
I would not have obtained this level of accreditation if it were not for the support of colleagues. A colleague who supports proficient teacher accreditation processes helped me by ensuring that all referee reports were uploaded to my portal.
Planning and organising the logistics of site visits was also challenging. Once again a colleague who was responsible for staffing and timetable ensured that I had groups of colleagues available on the day of my site visit, so that I could create demonstration classes. A strong support network is key to success, even if it is not direct support from leadership.
6) What are the benefits you receive from being part of the HALT network?
There are many benefits of being part of the HALT network. Firstly, there is the advantage of collaborating with HALTs to learn more about their experiences across sectors. Having masterclasses facilitated by influential presenters is always a treat for someone who is constantly looking innovate learning experiences – without huge additional cost is a bonus as well.
Being part of a HALT network supports me to learn from a far wider network than that of an individual school or sector – my personal and professional growth has definitely reached new heights.
7) What’s the next big milestone you’d like to achieve in your career?
I know how empowering the HALT process has been for me and with this in mind I will continue to be a strong advocate for the HALTs and I would like to demonstrate through actions and experiences that if we want quality teaching and world class education – this is the best pathway for teachers.
I am proof that while on paper I am a classroom teacher, the reality is that I have the same if not stronger presence and voice in the larger Australian educational community – so HALTS have a voice that is heard, acknowledged, and recognised not just at a classroom, school or sector level but at a national level and hopefully at a global level in the future.
I may not be in school leadership or sector leadership but the HALT accreditation has afforded me the opportunity to lead and grow personally and professionally and the ultimate reward for me is to have a foot in the classroom and observe improvement of student outcomes, while continuing to inspire change as a 'Positionless Leader’.
I am keen to undertake research in the education field with focus on specific aspects of accreditation. I need to look into financial and other aspects and start the process of research at Master's and PhD level.
8) Any parting words or advice for aspiring HALTs?
Persevere and see this process as a challenge and that's what makes the outcome even more rewarding. I think this is the way onto the national or even global pathway of overall improvement of student outcomes.
It is a great career pathway – the issue is that some sectors and educational experts haven't realised this as yet. Don't be put off by the attitude of others.