On 3 September 2016, our K/1 teacher, Ms Emma Smith, travelled to Sydney to accept the Teachers’ Guild of NSW award for teachers in their early years of teaching in primary school, which was announced in early August.

We were told that Emma’s award recipient speech was extremely well written and well received by all in attendance. Curious to know more about this noteworthy speech, we tracked Emma down for a copy and she has agreed to let us share it with you.

“Firstly, congratulations to all the other award recipients tonight and thank you to the Teachers’ Guild for providing the teaching profession with this great opportunity.

What an honour to be standing here receiving this award. When we were asked to write a speech for tonight, I questioned what you would want to hear and know about me. So my speech tonight is about who I am as a person and as a teacher.

So I guess I will start at the beginning and tell you why I became a teacher.

The best way I can explain that to people is making reference to a scene in Sister Act 2 with Whoopi Goldberg:

Whoopi Goldberg hands Lauryn Hill a book and tells her, “I went to my mother who gave me this book…called Letters to a Young Poet. Rainer Maria Rilke. He’s a fabulous writer. A fellow used to write to him and say, ‘I want to be a writer. Please read my stuff.’ And Rilke says to this guy, ‘Don’t ask me about being a writer. If, when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing…then you’re a writer.’”

I wake up every morning thinking about teaching – excited by what my day will bring, excited by the learning that will take place but most of all excited by being in a space where relationships and connections are valued and every child feels part of. That’s why I am a teacher – I could think of nothing else in this world I want to be doing but teaching!

Another reason I became a teacher was because I had an amazing role model in my mother. My mum was an early education educator for over 40 yeas and it was watching her love her job each and every day that made my passion for teaching ignite. My mother guided and gave so many children the best start in life because of her commitment to teaching and I wanted to follow in those footsteps and continue providing children with the best start in their journey as lifelong learners.

I often see quotes and memes that pop up about teachers and what makes a good teacher. I reflect on these a lot and these are my own reflections on what makes a good teacher.

I remember going for my job interview with my current Principal and he asking me about my philosophy and beliefs about teaching. I looked at him and said “relationships and connections” is what is at the heart of teaching.

If you have ever seen the Ted Ex talk by Rita Pierson, she talks about the value of relationships with the children we teach and that every child deserves a “champion” in their life. Someone who believes in them every day and advocates for them and will never give up on them.

I talked about this notion in my interview as it is such a strong value that I believe in and the
Principal said, “You are right, any teacher can pick up a lesson plan and teach it, but the best teachers are the ones who build strong, meaningful relationships with every child in their class.” I sighed a huge sigh of relief when he said that, that’s for sure!!!

Luckily for me I was successful in getting the job, and from that day forward my role as a teacher has been to build strong relationships which value every child and their individual learning journey to build successful lifelong learners.

Truly amazing teachers value relationships and connections and use that as a building block for great learning. If you haven’t seen the Rita Pierson talk, please watch it – she truly is an inspirational educator.

I then came to think about what teaching means to me and what did this award mean to me. Being a very critical person who analyses everything (sometimes at 4 o’clock in the morning), I have thought about this question and whether I believed I was worthy of this award.

I almost didn’t make the interview for this award – after two cancelled flights, a cry at the airport to my Deputy (who went above his job description calming me down at 7 o’clock in the morning) and then a trip to Sydney and back in one day from Jindabyne (a 10 hour return trip by car), so regardless of what the outcome was, I was extremely proud of myself to overcome the hurdles that I was faced with in getting to the interview (and still looking and remaining quite calm when I arrived – well I think so, anyway).

Being a teacher is part of me, it is who I am, and to be recognised at this level for my contribution to teaching is an honour. Not only an honour for myself but my school and the amazing team of educators and leaders within my school. Teaching is not done in isolation – we collaborate, co-create and confer with our colleagues on a daily basis. I am extremely lucky to be at a school where teachers are valued for their knowledge and encouraged to be innovative with the students at the core of every decision made.

Being in a small rural town it is not often that we can compete on the big stage (except of course in snowsports). However, this award shows other teachers and students that you don’t have to be at a large school in Sydney, for example, to achieve great things. That teachers in small rural towns are in fact achieving great things with positive outcomes for their students every day.

I opened my speech tonight indicating that I would like to talk about me as a person and a teacher. I guess I could conclude by stating that teaching is not a job, it is who I am …. And I am thankful every day of who I am.

Thank you.”

Emma is also one of the teachers running SMGS’ free five-week transitional program, Let’s Explore. The program is made up of five sessions that begin on 21 October 2016 and have been designed to ease your child’s journey into the world of Kindergarten and Junior School. The program is open to any child who is looking to start Kindergarten in 2017, regardless of where you plan on educating your child.