A WATTLE Grove Primary School teacher tasked with pushing talented students out of their comfort zone has been named a finalist in the 2017 State Education Awards.
For Sawyers Valley resident Carl Sanderson his nomination is the culmination of a life spent in teaching and for the past six years, spent teaching a classroom full of exceptionally talented students.
A veteran of schools throughout the state, Mr Sanderson has spent the last six years at Wattle Grove PS in an exceptionally challenging, and somewhat unusual, role.
Mr Sanderson is the teacher of Wattle Grove’s Multi-Aged Academic Class (MAAC), a class that combines talented students from Years 4, 5 and 6 into one class, a role he was hand-picked for by principal Julie Roberts, and his work with talented children has seen him named as a finalist in the WA Premier’s Primary Teacher of the Year.
As Mr Sanderson explains, the WA Education system is tailored in a way that does not always meet the needs of our best and brightest.
“Schools in WA do a fantastic job with kids that are average or struggling a little bit, but kids at the higher end often get neglected because you’re so busy through the day,” he said.
“This class is about challenging and pushing kids we’ve identified as being talented because the one thing gifted and talented students hate or fear above all else is being bored.
“So we do lots of maths, lots of science, lots of interesting English, we take them a few steps further than we normally would if they were just in a normal class.
“We don’t have to hang back, we can push and push and push but in a gentle way, because they are still little kids.”
The challenge of the role is teaching three age groups at one time, age groups that may be at different levels of both mental and social capacity, but Mr Sanderson has help in dealing with this challenge from an unexpected source.
“We were worried about how the Year 4 students would go with bigger kids, the Year 6, but what we’ve found is that it works really well.
“The Year 6 almost take the younger kids under their wing.
“The Year 4 students find it daunting for the first couple of weeks, but we split them up and pair them with older kids, and the benefit is the Year 4 can see what the Year 6 are doing, and they want to do it as well.
“Without me having to say it, they drag themselves up to that level.”
At the end of the day, however, Mr Sanderson said it was important to remember one crucial aspect of teaching, and indeed learning.
“Anything they do they get really excited about, and that makes me excited and coming to work with that excitement, it’s fun.
“It’s fun for the students and it’s fun for me.”
Ms Roberts described Mr Sanderson as an exceptional, inspirational teacher.
“He’s able to cater for students of varying age groups across a range of learning areas, which was crucial to the Wattle Grove’s Multi-Aged Academic Class program,” she said.
“He’s got three year levels in there, they are all academically talented children, and that is extremely challenging for any teacher to be able to cater for the individual difference of children particularly when they are academically talented.
“I announced that he had made the finals at a sports carnival on Monday, it received a huge roar and that came through from the parents as well, they are equally as excited about this.
“We’re really looking forward to it, with our fingers crossed.’’
Site visits to finalists’ schools by education award judges started on Wednesday and will run for a week, with the winners announced at a gala event at Crown Perth on November 24.
By Liam Ducey