Plumpton High School's Shaelee Dunbar wins Keith Tronc Award for Outstanding Teacher Leadership

OUTSTANDING: "It's an exciting time to be in education,"  Plumpton High School's Shae Dunbar said. Picture: Heath Parkes-Hupton
OUTSTANDING: "It's an exciting time to be in education," Plumpton High School's Shae Dunbar said. Picture: Heath Parkes-Hupton

She might be a teacher, but Shae Dunbar thinks learning how to be a global citizen could be as important as maths and literacy.

That’s because she has been at the forefront of a shift in the way our schools teach students as they prepare for a rapidly changing world.

Ms Dunbar’s work transitioning students and her colleagues to new techniques was this month recognised with the prestigious Keith Tronc Award for Outstanding Teacher Leadership at the 2017 ACEL National Awards.

The awards are open to educators from all sectors in Australia.

Ms Dunbar helped lead a creative revolution at Rooty Hill High School, giving students the power to shape their own education.

She said handing responsibility to students helped to grow their own perceptions of themselves.

“It’s about changing the definition of creativity...to keep up with a changing economy,” she said.

“Creativity is not just about drawing or dancing, it’s about being able to look for solutions to problems and collaborate with other people.

“There’s a lot of emphasis in the curriculum on personal and social capacity, and being able to be a global citizen.”

It's a cliche, but I wanted a job where you could feel like what you did mattered to people.

Shae Dunbar

Since she started out as a student placement teacher at Rooty Hill in 2009, Ms Dunbar has seen teaching go from teacher-led to student-based.

“There’s been the movement of the growth mindset – that intelligence is not fixed,” the 32-year-old said.

“Back in the day there was a mindset that your intelligence is fixed, and what your born with is what you’ve got, so we’ll make the best of that.

“Today there’s definitely more emphasis that through reflection, you can progress.”

Ms Dunbar is now the head of HSIE at Plumpton High School, after taking up the job early this year.

“We’ve been using the language around the ‘the learning pit’,” she said

“It might be confusing, but that’s OK. If you’ve got a problem...you can’t just give up, you keep going. I think that really resonates with a lot of students here.

“It’s not only them understanding key concepts of curriculum, it’s about understanding themselves as humans.”

Ms Dunbar said she came to teaching after a “soul-less” stint in marketing.

“It’s a cliche, but I wanted a job where you could feel like what you did mattered to people,” she said.