Speech for 2019 HALT Recognition Ceremony

Good evening Minister, guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

I am absolutely honoured to be here this evening to celebrate with my colleagues on their achievement of accreditation at Highly Accomplished or Lead. I am excited to share this next part of the journey with you. It does not seem that long ago that I was sitting exactly where you are.

I achieved my Lead Accreditation in 2017, and what a journey it has been since then. I achieved my accreditation at Macarthur Girls High School and was lucky enough to receive the support of the entire school community throughout the process. At Macarthur Girls, we have had six people achieve accreditation at higher levels, including one who will bereceiving his medal tonight. People from schools around NSW often ask how and why one school has had so many teachers undertake the process of accreditation at higher levels

For me, the school and the leadership team has worked incredibly hard to embed the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers in the everyday practice of staff. In doing so, teachers are able to undertake the process seamlessly as the reflection and analysis of practice which the process requires, is simply what teachers are required to do on an ongoing, daily basis. The importance of supporting colleagues and the school community has also been embedded within all elements of the school structure, meaning that all staff learn and support each other regularly. Not only does this support staff to achieve accreditation at all levels, but it also allows the school to achieve its milestones and ensure that every teacher and every student learns every day. Since achieving my accreditation, I am determined to continue this legacy not only at my school, but at schools around NSW.

In my experience, there has been this perpetuating myth that accreditation at higher levels was an acknowledgement of only an individual’s achievements. In no way am I diminishing the role the individual plays in this process, but it cannot happen without the support of systems, school leaders and colleagues. In my career, I have been incredibly fortunate to have been mentored, supported and guided by some true giants of educational leadership. I am sure each of you sitting here today would be able to recognise the giants of your own career. Accreditation at higher levels is often described as extra work, but it should be the usual practice of what teachers are doing in our school every day. As schools, we need to ensure that we are providing opportunities for teachers at all levels to demonstrate practices at the different levels of accreditation.

As with all processes like this, people in the wider community and well as in the teaching profession, often ask what’s the point of accreditation? My answer always returns to students. For me, that is what accreditation is all about. We know that in our profession, we have Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers and each one of these play an important role in making teaching one of the (if not the) best professions in the world.

We know that Proficient Teachers have such an incredible impact on the students in their classroom. Highly Accomplished Teachers impact not
only the students in their classrooms, but also the students in the classrooms of their colleagues. Lead Teachers impact students in classrooms across the school and system. Accreditation at higher levels
is simply a recognition of the impact that expert teachers can have on as many students as possible. I am yet to meet a teacher who did not come into the profession because they wanted to positively make a
difference in the lives of young people. Accreditation at higher levels simply encourages teachers to work with others to impact as many
students as possible.

I think it also timely that we recognise that the credentials that we are celebrating and recognising today are for teachers. Teachers in our classrooms are the backbone of our profession. In my opinion, there is
no job more important in our society. Accreditation at higher levels allows us to celebrate and recognise our expert teachers and what they do in their own classrooms and also the classrooms of others.

Since achieving my accreditation, I have been fortunate enough to have been provided with so many opportunities to meet with school leaders, teachers and members of our profession. I have travelled
throughout the state and I am always humbled by the expert practice that is happening in schools throughout NSW.

I have spoken to many teachers who are not sure about whether to undertake higher levels of accreditation or not. Unfortunately, I have
heard the phrase, “I am just a teacher” on more occasions than I would care to admit. However, no one is ever “just” a teacher. There is no “just” about it. The process of higher levels of accreditation celebrates just that. It allows our expert and innovative teachers to be recognised and acknowledged for the incredible service they provide to students in our schools.

Tonight is about celebrating the achievements of those who have undertaken higher levels of accreditation but it is not the end point. It is simply the beginning. The opportunities to work with colleagues, schools and students that I have been provided with since achieving accreditation is absolutely mind blowing. I would encourage each of you here today to see this achievement as a platform which you can use to
work with as many colleagues and students as possible. Take hold of all opportunities, and encourage colleagues to work towards this
achievement. We can never have too many teachers who are experts in their field because our students deserve the very best that we can offer
them.

Congratulations once again on this incredible achievement.

Emma Mansfield HATL, NSW
Relieving Principal | Macarthur Girls High School