Teaching English across Years 5 to 9, Brisbane Grammar School teacher Michelle Ragen’s first priority is to get to know her students as they are central to any decision she makes on teaching strategies and they are diverse in terms of age, skills and personalities.
Michelle is a form tutor and actively engages with students and their families in co-curricular activities. Head of Middle School Rebecca Campbell notes this builds strong rapport with them, which leads Michelle to create better learning experiences.
“Students in her class know that she is invested in them and will challenge them with warmth and fairness to do their best,” Rebecca says.
Michelle is noted for her strong understanding of how boys acquire and develop their literacy skills. A teacher for 24 years, she has also taught English in Senior and understands progress takes time. She works to ensure she is preparing her students for all future study.
Michelle leads the Year 6 team in planning and evaluating teaching programs. Recently she used pre- and post-testing data to enhance literacy skills and target her students’ needs. Across her Year 6 cohort there was a 13 per cent increase.
Michelle also gets students engaged in leading activities that serve a public purpose, such as Shave for a Cure and the World Vision Backpack Challenge and other fundraising ventures.
Reflecting on her practice, Michelle is guided by the progress each of her students makes and the value of what they have learnt. Her focus is on developing independence and self-responsibility in students. To this end she includes in her lessons collaborative structures, peer feedback and self-evaluation.
“The boys in Michelle’s classes willingly engage their hearts and minds, and they thrive in a fun and stimulating learning environment through her obvious enthusiasm and passion for English,” Rebecca says.
In 2011 Michelle received the Peter Botsman Award from the English Teachers Association of Queensland, which recognises exemplary contribution and excellence in English education within the state. Michelle is involved with this association and until recently was on its executive.
Regularly presenting at conferences and creating opportunities for others to do the same, she leads school-based professional development, mentors beginning teachers and is a go-to for advice from colleagues. Inspired by her postgraduate studies, Michelle participated in a global action research project and enjoys being part of a network of devoted professionals.
Well-versed in research on effective literacy practices, Michelle has led curriculum innovation by translating theory into practice. When leading change in curriculum she will take a methodical approach, looking for evidence that a strategy is effective before scaling up to the whole year level and knowing that support from all is needed for change to succeed.
An average day will see Michelle working with colleagues across subjects and years, in contact with parents, getting in touch with community members for co-curricular activities and contributing to professional discussions in teacher networks.
Congratulations Michelle on your nomination.