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 Merrilyn Krohn, Highly Accomplished teacher at New Farm State School, to find out more about her experience achieving certification and the impact it has on her career, students, and colleagues.

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

My career started in 2000, and after moving interstate several times, I became a permanent teacher in Queensland. I had taught for several years as a casual relief and contract teacher, building skills and experience. My leadership experience began as a Year Level leader which gave me valuable opportunities to share my knowledge and practice. I created units of work, organised projects and involved the school and wider community in events which created a foundation for my HALT portfolio.

2) Please describe your experience attaining HALT certification.  

Whilst compiling my portfolio, which took approximately 9 months or 250 hours for Stage 1, I was also training to compete in the Kokoda Challenge Events – a 48km endurance event hiking through D’Aguilar National Park. I draw a lot of parallels between both experiences, hiking 48km on a Saturday morning and submitting a portfolio for certification.

Most individuals do not normally set out on any Saturday morning to hike an extensive distance and likewise most teachers would not set out to compile a portfolio over the weekend. Nor did I but rather, I had a very structured and systematic approach.

Before embarking on my ambitious goal, a fitness check was necessary and so to with certification. Using the AITSL Self-assessment Tool, I was able to objectively highlight my strengths, showing 85% of my practice was within the Highly Accomplished teaching stage. Deeper analysis allowed me to view my practice critically which revealed elements of my classroom practice that comprised the remaining descriptors, so certification was potentially attainable.

Both goals required strong commitment and dedication. I needed to be disciplined to commit to training and disciplined to commit to my portfolio composition. I mapped out a training schedule and I mapped out progress steps towards submission.  Both challenges had hills, quite literally hiking up steep hills, while my portfolio at times presented with metaphorical hills and challenges. Getting up hills required strength, stamina, and motivation, but it’s when you stand on top of hills, you notice the view and how far you have come.

Along the event route were checkpoints that needed to be reached by specified times and similarly checkpoints were set out to manage the certification progress. Having a clear game strategy going into the event, knowing the route and timings was beneficial. In the same way, I used a strategic model to map out elements of certification and timings. Reaching each checkpoint within the time frames was critical to continuation.

The last leg of the Kokoda challenge course was just as important as setting out. Continuing to put one foot in front of the other to maintain momentum and complete the process while your body is tired and aching, seemed so similar to finalising the last referees, last checklists and statements. The end posts were in sight and crossing the line after all that time, dedication, commitment, and sweat was sweet success.

3) Why did you choose to become HALT certified?  

Although I had been teaching for several years, my career had never gained traction as a result of moving and re-starting my career as a casual or contract teacher each time. My motivating factor was the national recognition that certification provided. Certification acknowledged my teaching capacity and how I share my experience and skills with colleagues. Certification was a valued opportunity as a career progression.

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

Being a HALT has opened opportunities to network at school, cluster, state, and national level. It was through the AITSL HALT Summit 2021, that I was driven to network with similar teachers. Being involved with like-minded teachers is uplifting and invigorating, refuelling the passion for the craft of teaching. I have experienced greater opportunities to share practice with a wider circle of colleagues, through staff presentations, facilitating workshop and supporting early career teachers and aspirant HALTs. As a HALT, I have worked collaboratively to co-establish a cluster network and I was appointed as one of the founding executive members of Qld College of Teachers HALT network. Each network has allowed deeper sharing of expert teaching practice, enhancing my students’ learning by bringing innovative and engaging teaching into the classroom.

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

By biggest challenge was that I was part of the first Queensland cohort (after the pilot) to complete certification. There was no one who had done it before me whom I could easily consult nor anyone to partner with and journey together.  I felt I was forging a new path in my school and cluster. I thoroughly read AITSL documents such as Certification documentary evidence supplement: Highly Accomplish Teachers and used mapping tools and guides set out by QCT. Using such documents, guides, and liaising with QCT to clarify uncertainties, provided prompt and accurate information.

Before a highway existed between Sydney and Melbourne, tracks were created through bushland, a roadway was cleared, and continual upgrades and developments were made to establish a thoroughfare. Networks, resources, and improved documents are continually emerging through various stakeholders, supporting any upcoming aspirants on their journey.

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

As an ambassador for Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers, I not only continue being in the classroom but also influence school leadership and the profession. I am afforded opportunities to build my leadership skills. I am valued in my school for my teaching practice and for supporting colleagues, improving systems, and influencing the community. Being part of the HALT network connects me with like-minded, innovative thinkers who creatively strive to improve teaching and learning for their students.

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

I have several avenues that I would like to continue to explore – networking, curriculum, and further research.

  • Networking – I enjoy the relational aspect of networking and bringing about change through direct conversations with various parties. Continuing to build advantageous and rich connections is where I would like to see continual growth. Furthering these goals, I envisage partnering with ITE providers to rouse interest and aim pre-service and early career teachers towards achieving HALT certification as a career progression.
  • Curriculum – delivery and assessment – is our core business and has always been a driving motivator for me. I would welcome opportunities to work alongside colleagues with curriculum elements to creatively improve teaching practice and student outcomes.
  • Student Effort Framework initiative – Having shared my classroom practice, “Engaging Effort to Improve Student Outcomes” as a Share Space presenter at AITSL HALT Summit 2023, I would like to continue developing this framework initiative. I propose documenting the greater impact student voice and teacher conversations must instigate and maintain student effort in the classroom. What role does engaging effort play to improving student outcomes?

8) Any parting words or advice for aspiring HALTs?  

Don’t become overwhelmed by the magnitude of your goals. Just keep taking small steps forward.


Are you an aspiring HALT?

Discover more about HALT certification here.