Attaining Highly Accomplished or Lead certification opens a wealth of career possibilities. Advocate for quality teaching, get recognition for your achievements and lead the profession towards better outcomes for teachers and learners everywhere.

In this edition of our HALT Q&A Series, we sit down with Luke Donnelly, HALT certified Principal at St Thomas More’s Primary School, to find out more about his experience achieving certification and the impact it has on his career, school, colleagues, and importantly, students.

1) Please tell us about your teaching experience before becoming a HALT.

In the years leading up to certification I had worked in preschools while studying an early childhood degree and then teaching in the lower years of primary school as a graduate teacher at St Matthew’s. Following time acting in the role of curriculum coordinator I received a permanent coordinator role at a new school, St John Vianney’s. It was at St John Vianney’s that I engaged in the IDEAS process for school renewal which became the Lead Initiative I would then use as evidence in certification.

2) Please describe your experience attaining HALT certification.

Attaining HALT certification was a challenging experience as I was involved in the certification pilot in the ACT. Being involved in the pilot meant that AITSL, TQI (certifying body in the ACT) and colleagues across all sectors were coming together to develop our understanding of the standards and apply these to a portfolio of evidence in a short period of time. Whilst challenging, I found the process to be the best professional learning I have engaged in to date as it allowed me to critically reflect on my practice at a macro level and then identify specific descriptors within the standards for future growth. The initial experience of certification is the reason I embraced recertification after 5 years and plan to engage in my 10 year renewal later this year.

3) Why did you choose to become HALT certified?

I chose to become a HALT because I was interested in gaining further insight into the standards and their application in our profession. I saw certification as an aspirational goal that could affirm the initiatives I had led across my school, support me in strengthening my practice and present opportunities for networking beyond my school and sector.

4) Tell us how being a HALT has helped you, your career, your colleagues, and students?

Being a lead teacher has helped me develop my leadership skills and thereby supporting colleagues to achieve greater outcomes for their students. I believe it has been a contributing factor in my career progression as it demonstrates my breadth of knowledge across teaching when applying for new roles. The greatest impact that HALT has had on me is the excitement that comes from supporting others to reach certification. I am now an assessor of HALT applications, have moderated the certification process at a national level, joined the HALT Advisory Group for AITSL and mentored multiple applicants to commence, continue and achieve certification. In all these interactions the impact on students is evident.

5) What are some of the challenges you encountered in attaining certification and how did you overcome them?

The greatest challenge was understanding the process of certification from the selection of evidence, through to quality annotation of each descriptor and finally, ensuring the impact on student outcomes was always at the forefront. I overcame this challenge by asking questions of trusted mentors, comparing annotations with other aspiring HALTs and ensuring I had evidence that showed student impact. The other challenge that will always be present is time. I found I was able to overcome this by taking the time to shut myself off in a quiet study room of my local university library. 

6) What are the benefits you receive from being part of the HALT network?

The greatest benefits that come from HALT is the network that opens to you as a result of certification. Through this process I have been able to engage with colleagues across all three sectors of education in the ACT and nationally. The other benefit would be the opportunity to mentor and coach aspiring HALTs and be there to celebrate their successes.

7) What’s the next big milestone you’d like to achieve in your career?

I’d like to continue to develop my skills as a new principal so that I can see continued growth in the outcomes of the students, staff, and community of St Thomas More’s Primary School. I believe it is the focus spent on the role you are in at the time that leads to the ‘next big milestone’.

8) Any parting words or advice for aspiring HALTs?

Find a great mentor who understands the certification process, complete the AITSL self-assessment tool, then have all the descriptors of the stage you are aspiring to and analyse them in light of the work you have been doing. From the knowledge of your mentor, the results of your self-assessment and your own analysis you will have a great foundation for diving in headfirst and commencing the process of certification!



Are you an aspiring HALT?

Discover more about HALT certification here.