A comprehensive approach to literacy has landed Dace Elletson a Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The student engagement officer at Granville South Creative and Performing Arts High School has spent the past 18 months implementing the primary-level Focus on Reading program — which aims to boost student literacy — at the high school.
This includes 35 hours of professional learning for teachers, and modelling reading practices for students in years 7 and 8.
‘‘It’s assumed that when kids come to high school they already know how to read,’’ Mr Elletson said.
‘‘Not that they don’t as a whole, but there are certainly a lot of kids that have come and they don’t have what they need to be able to access the curriculum at a year 7 level.
‘‘We’re the only school in the state who are rolling out the package to the whole school.
‘‘Our results are improving.’’
Mr Elletson’s day at the culturally diverse school begins at 6am and includes class teaching, team teaching and discussion.
He said 48 NSW teaching executives would attend open days at the school to learn more about the program.
‘‘What I’ve learnt here . . . has highlighted to me the difference between training in high school teachers and primary school teachers. It’s just very, very different,’’ he said.
‘‘In primary schools, kids learn in co-operative groups — reading groups, writing groups, numeracy groups — and when kids get to high school it’s . . . autocratic and heavily directed.
‘‘We’re trying to break that down and get the group work happening.’’
Mr Elletson has been a teacher for almost 20 years and said he was thrilled with the award, though embarrassed.
‘‘It’s a lovely nod to me from the school and my boss,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s not easy as a stranger coming into a school and saying let’s explicitly teach reading.
‘‘It’s an exciting place to work.’’