Achieving Highly Accomplished Teacher status is nothing to sniff at, as of 2023 only 1211 of the 307,000 full-time-equivalent teachers in Australia have obtained the certification.
For secondary school educator at Australian Christian College Moreton, Joyce Hres, who has worked at most levels in K-12 education, becoming a Highly Accomplished Teacher was not something that was done alone, help from colleagues and friends was instrumental and key was acknowledging her own skill as a teacher.
Joyce says getting the certification, “…was a team effort. Thank you to my mentor Mrs Anita Newell, my referees and supportive colleagues.
“When I started on this process, I was overwhelmed at the task and told my Head of Secondary, Mr Rhys Taylor that I was having second thoughts about applying for it. Rhys said to me, ‘You are already functioning at a highly accomplished level, all you are going to do is state what you are doing’. It made me realise that my skills have been acknowledged long before this process, it was just labelling them. There is a sense of achievement in effectively nurturing, supporting and impacting colleagues and their teaching as well as students and their learning.”
There was a lot of process and work to get through for Joyce’s certification, a pre-assessment stage to work out if she was eligible to apply for a highly accomplished teacher status and then two stages of assessment.
“Stage 1 consisted of submitting evidence against the 37 descriptors of Highly Accomplished career stage of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers as well as providing referee statements. Stage 2, was when the assessor observed classroom practice as well as conducted interviews with myself and the referees. It was a long reflective process compiled over a number of weeks,” she says.
The certification process has ushered in changes to the way Hres operates in classrooms.
“It made me more conscious of the impact on students and on colleagues and their teaching practices. I am able to be the person who is willing to share knowledge, resources and processes with my colleagues. I also welcomed feedback from my students that helped with reflecting on my practices,” she says.
This is her fifth year at Australian Christian College Moreton. Her first degree was in Early Childhood and she started her career as an early childhood teacher and director of a 76-place childcare centre.
“I then worked at a growing Independent School for 16 years and, whilst working there full-time, I got my second degree in Middle School Education as well as my Graduate Certificate in the field of Science Education. At the end of last year, I also began my certificate IV in Training and Education and completed it in March this year.
“I like to learn and apply what I have learned as well helping children and students realise their capacity to learn.”
Across her career she has taught Prep to Year 12 and has also provided education and care to children from 12 weeks to 5 years old.
“In the Prep to Year 6 space, I taught HPE. That was a steep learning curve! I learned how to teach throwing a discus and shot put as well as coaching students in high jump, but the most memorable was teaching the Preps how to stay in their lane for a 35m race.
“In Middle School, I've taught Year 7 Art (portraits and still life drawings - I have never had so much homework and restarting of tasks in my life!) along with HASS, English and Christian Studies. I have also taught Mathematics and Science from Years 7 to Year 10, Year 7 and 8 Digital Technology and Year 9 Manual Arts.
“In Senior School, I have taught Essential Mathematics as well as the Short Course in Numeracy, Science in Practice and Early Childhood Studies."
Hres says that the focus of her career has been on learning and that has coloured her trajectory above ambitiously rising through the ranks.
“I don't seem to have an ultimate career goal as such. I like to learn and I would like to finish my masters. A role that I would like to have, would be one along the lines of being a Teacher Mentor, more like working alongside rather than in leadership.”
Much of her work is in distance education and she designs courses for DE students which requires a deep understanding of the syllabus. Due to the broad demographic of DE students, Joyce has focused on creating a sense of belonging in her (virtual) classroom through interactivity, she runs webinars, discussion pages and group activities that foster connection.
She has also created assessments that are based on real-world challenges that require higher order thinking and creative solutions and has developed online quizzes that automatically grade and provide immediate feedback to students.
“Before designing the course I need to be familiar with the syllabus. I then break up the syllabus into terms, weeks and then lessons. For each lesson, I think about how I can include effective teaching and learning strategies such as interactive activities, practical work, worked examples, questioning, videos, simulations and multiple exposures etc.
“One of the examples in my HALT application was the course I created called, ‘A Very Short Course in Numeracy’, which precedes the QCAA, ‘Short Course in Numeracy’.
“When I was a hybrid (on-campus and distance education) teacher, I identified a gap where Year 9 students on a Math-U-See program were enrolled to complete the Short Course in Numeracy the following year so that they could satisfy their QCE Numeracy requirement. The Math-U-See program is structured in a way that allows students to move at their own pace, with each level building on the concepts from the previous one.
“The curriculum covers everything from basic addition and subtraction to more advanced topics like algebra and geometry. The Year 9 students were still on the level with the basic operations, and it seemed that there was no context in the level where these operations would be used. I then developed a course that was flexible and enabled students in the Math-U-See program to be at a level at which they could complete the Short Course in Numeracy.
“The key findings highlighted the importance of learning goals, success criteria, worked examples, questioning, feedback, thinking about thinking and multiple exposures (and the list goes on) to improve student learning."