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Christopher Rojo

CathWest Innovation College

In Empowering Educators, inspiring Aussie educators share how they build and nurture entrepreneurial mindsets in schools and classrooms. Here we ask Chris Rojo, Leader of Learning at CathWest Innovation College in Parramatta, NSW about his inspiration and how he creates creating authentic and connected learning experiences.

Q1: Could you give us three words that describe your life as an educator?

Respect. Relationships. Passion.

 Q2. What is the most important skill for young people to learn at school? What’s one way that educators (and/or caregivers) can explicitly build this skill?

I believe the most important skill for a young person to learn at school is communication. On the surface, communication is how we interact and work with others, however, I see it as being much deeper than that. Communication is the ability to effectively understand situations and people to build authentic and respectful relationships.

Starting small and gradually developing the complexity of what it means to communicate is one way we can build this skill for young people.

Begin with something as simple as using someone’s name in the conversation to looking into someone’s eyes when you speak to them and then working your way up to emotional intelligence and resilience. This can prove quite successful as long as it is taught with relevance and an understanding of the young person’s ability and context.

 Q3: What’s one of the best learning experiences you’ve ever delivered (or seen being delivered)?

In my first year of teaching music at a high school, I coordinated and developed a school-based African drumming group.

One day, a student decided to join who was new to the school and had a love for beats. When this student began playing a rhythm on a djembe they just heard for the first time, I knew straight away they had a natural gift. This particular student was also deaf and had the ability to feel the beats through their feet. It was remarkable and I knew this could inspire other students.

In future years of teaching music, I co-created a drumming workshop with this particular student, showcasing their skills and abilities.

As a team, we taught the workshop attendees to learn a rhythm through their feet.

This is a learning experience I will never forget – one that teaches me and others that nothing should stop you from doing something you love.

 Q4. One thing all teachers and school leaders wish for is more time. Can you suggest one ‘productivity hack’ to save teachers time?

I believe the relationships and connections I have at work saves me a great deal of time. Utilising the people around you for their strengths and regularly collaborating with others (productively of course) can really make a difference in productivity.

I believe the correct term to best describe this is ‘divide and conquer.’

Q5: What’s one book, website or podcast you’d recommend to educators keen to build the entrepreneurial mindsets of their students? 

The work of Yong Zhao is part of the inspiration underpinning our philosophy at CathWest.

We aim to provide students with contemporary learning experiences that align their content knowledge and skills. It is also important to ensure that the learning is accessible and achievable for ALL.

One book by Yong Zhao that I highly recommend in building students’ entrepreneurial mindsets is World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (2012). It encourages students to work with and within industries, exposing them to the nuances of business and entrepreneurial connections. An inspiring quote that stood out to me was when Yong Zhao wrote, “Schools in general reduce instead of enhance creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit because they have been designed to prepare good employees. And the qualities of a good employee in the traditional sense are drastically different from what makes a good entrepreneurial worker today.”

Meet this week’s Empowering Educator, Christopher Rojo.

Christopher Rojo has been teaching for approximately 10 years. He started as a Music teacher in secondary schools and during his first few years of teaching, became interested in Vocational Education and Training. After many years of professionally developing and extending his teaching capabilities, he successfully completed, and can now deliver, two Certificate II courses in Active Volunteering and Foundational Skills for Work and Vocational Educational Pathways as well as two Certificate III courses in both Business and Live Production and Technical Services.

With this expansive knowledge and experience, Chris became the first Leader of Learning in the Inquiry Pathway at CathWest Innovation College in 2019. CathWest approaches learning and education in a way that empowers, nurtures and develops students into young adults who are ready for work and life in the ‘real world’. Driven by transferable skills for success, CathWest focuses on relevant, cross-curricular and personalised learning that aligns to a students passion and chosen industry. Leading this learning, Chris has have transformed and grown as an educational practitioner and leader. He finds himself wanting to push the boundaries of education and change the perception of how we do things in schools by always asking ‘why?’

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