Yarrabilba State Secondary College
In Empowering Educators, inspiring Aussie educators share how they build and nurture entrepreneurial mindsets in schools and classrooms. Here we ask Janelle Whatmore of Yarrabilba State Secondary College in Queensland about her inspiration and how she creates creating authentic and connected learning experiences.
Q1. Can you give us three words (or phrases) that describe your life as an educator?
Fun. Ever-changing. Connected.
Q2: What’s one of the best learning experiences you’ve ever delivered?
The best learning experiences I have delivered were the most empowering for my learners yet the most challenging for me.
I remember a Year 8 English class that I had a few years ago very fondly. We had established an awesome safe and trusting learning community in our room and they excelled at working collaboratively and communicating with each other. I decided to embrace my inner strength of bravery and try some new strategies to accelerate their critical thinking skills and ICT capabilities. This required me to step back – stop talking – and just let them go.
I let them attempt learning by doing, play with new programs and problems, make mistakes, fail and then try again.
It was amazing to watch and oh so terrifying for me at the same time.
I remember a colleague being in my classroom as I attempted to use some of the platforms and strategies with the class for the first time and I kept looking at her for reassurance as I doubted myself and the approaches I was trailing. I kept breathing and acting calm in the room but it was a struggle for me… the ‘quiet working noise’ and keyboard taps, very different to how the classroom usually sounded or looked. Luckily, her small smiles and little winks were all I needed to reassure me that there was magic in the air and good learning and growth happening in the room at those times. She was right! The students were individually empowered with their learning, they were working and collaborating in online environments while being physically in the same room.
One platform great for promoting and developing online collaboration and ICT capabilities is Padlet .
Q3: What’s one book, website or podcast you’d recommend to educators keen to build the entrepreneurial mindsets of their students?
It’s so important for us to instil a love of learning in our students as we don’t know what they will need to know in the future…but we know they will need to have strong SKILLS to be able to learn what needs to be learned.
Meet this week’s Empowering Educator, Janelle Whatmore.
With a passion for making learning fun and meaningful, Janelle adopts a holistic approach to education and believes that each student is capable of achieving success, both at school and beyond. A core value that she embraces is positive education. She strives to build positive relationships and create environments that inspire learning and encourage student engagement.
Janelle was appointed to Yarrabilba State Secondary College in 2019 in preparation for its opening in 2020. The college opened with approximately 280 students in Years 7 & 8 and in 2021, the Day 8 numbers tipped over 500. As a foundation Head of Department, she has played a vital role in helping to build a positive culture for learning and wellbeing at the college. YSSC has very diverse cohorts and many students with additional needs. Approximately 13% of the students identify as indigenous.
As a Head of Department, Janelle’s leadership portfolio includes English, Humanities and Social Sciences, Languages, Trauma-Informed Practices and Wellbeing. Janelle also teaches Dance to Year 7 and 8 students. Prior to joining the Yarrabilba community, she worked as a Head of Department (Engagement – Years 7 & 8), Master Teacher and Junior Secondary specialist teacher at Flagstone State Community College. Janelle also brings with her knowledge and previous experiences from teaching in the primary school and early childhood sectors. Janelle feels privileged to share in child’s educational journey and looks forward to further strengthening education outcomes for all students.
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