Author: Lesley Englert
18 September 2019
Inside Schools Plus is an illuminating new series that shines a light on what goes on behind the scenes – in our offices and out in the field – through interviews with the people on the ground. The first Q&A is with our Fair Education Queensland Lead Coach, Lesley Englert.
Lesley has experienced the full range of education positions in Queensland including primary and secondary teacher, literacy advisor, Deputy Principal, Principal, District Director and Assistant Director General (Curriculum). She was an original Board Member of ACARA and the author of several textbooks and the award-winning digital program English Stars.
Hometown: I was born in Brisbane, but currently live on an acreage property at Canungra, in South East Queensland.
Time at Schools Plus: I commenced in July 2018.
Currently reading and watching: I’m currently reading a crime novel, Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, and watching (obsessively) The Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies and all the great sport currently on television.
How would you describe your role at Schools Plus to a student?
My job is to work with teams of teachers in schools who really care about kids and want them to have the best opportunities to succeed. First, I meet the Principal and the teachers, and we talk about the challenges their students are facing. Then, together, we work out some strategies and some ways of measuring the results. We work together for three years and do a lot of sharing with each other and with other schools whose students may also be facing the same challenges.
How did you come to work in the not-for-profit sector?
I worked in the public education sector for many years in many roles and, when I retired , I saw the coaching position with Schools Plus as a great opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with teachers who are choosing to go above and beyond their ‘role description’ to make a real difference for disadvantaged students.
What has been your most memorable moment at Schools Plus to date?
There are many but perhaps the most memorable moment has been participating (with one of our donors) in a large group meditation session at Toogoolawa School whose students are boys aged 8 – 16 years who are, for a range of reasons, unable to participate in traditional schooling. The session was so peaceful, powerful and moving.
What is your biggest achievement to date – personal and professional (at Schools Plus)?
Anything I have achieved as a Schools Plus coach is not achieved alone. Coaching has given me the opportunity to share my expertise and experience with passionate teachers, parents and community members who choose to go above and beyond for their students. Although Fair Education in Queensland has only been in schools since the beginning of 2019, I have been part of a range of great achievements – participating with local elders in the Language Advisory Group at Mossman State School and celebrating their success in the Reconciliation Awards, observing the delight of learning to read at Toogoolawa School, sharing parents’ positive feedback about the impact of the Pre prep pods at Yelarbon State School, speaking with migrant mums who are undertaking English language lessons so they can support their children in their schooling at Darling Heights State School … The coaching role is important for schools and it’s wonderful for me to be part of it all.
If you had $30m to donate to schools, what would you do with it?
Oh, if only! I would work on a proposal to Universities and Education Departments that has three underpinning elements:
- Quality teaching makes the most difference in student learning, and certainly makes the most difference for the most disadvantaged students.
- Many disadvantaged schools are currently staffed by young teachers who have little or no training or experience in working in these schools.
- Education faculties need to develop a course focussed on input by experts in the field and practical experience for students who choose to work in disadvantaged schools.
My proposal is that those pre-service teachers who successfully demonstrate their skills in both the theoretical and practical elements of the course would be guaranteed placement in a disadvantaged school upon graduation and be supported financially for the final years of their course.
They would need to commit to remaining in the school for at least the period of time for which they had received financial assistance. (This would prevent the high turnover currently experienced in remote disadvantaged schools.)
If the proposal was accepted, 50% of the $30m would support the pre-service teachers and the other 50% would be invested to provide ongoing funds so that this proposal could be sustained.
If you could invite three people to lunch (living or dead), who would they be and why?
I should probably nominate three very famous, clever people – but truly I would give anything to sit down to lunch with my wonderful parents and husband, all of whom died far too young many years ago.
If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
I love gardening, designing and working outdoors so … landscape architect!
Tell us about the teacher that had the greatest impact on your life.
My Year 5 teacher – Miss Bernadette Keating. She was so kind, clever, and classy. I can remember thinking then that I really wanted to be a teacher – just like her (and I have never regretted that decision made by the 10-year-old me.)