Dear colleagues, and all members of our Catholic school communities,
Today on World Teachers’ Day, I would like to acknowledge the role of teachers in our system, a role which is truly remarkable in the impact it has on the lives of children and young people, and the way it underpins communities.
All who work as classroom educators, or who have done so, know that children and young people are creative, energetic, full of curiosity, and unique. You also know that students are at a vulnerable and formative time throughout their childhood, that they will push boundaries and test out challenging behaviours, and that they will have their bad days as well as the good. Students need trusted people in their lives, and for many thousands of students across our State, our teachers are a key person who they can depend on.
Like so many aspects of life this year, schooling everywhere was interrupted by COVID-19, even though schools in WA have not had the same shut-down as seen in other places around the country and the world.
Our staff at CEWA schools support the learning, development and wellbeing of approximately 77,000 students, or almost 1 in 5 WA school students. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic you provided stability and familiarity for students in a tumultuous time.
I would like to thank our teachers and support staff for their commitment throughout 2020 to nurturing students in their classes and school environments, and for modelling healthy and respectful relationships.
Learning and achievement also have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing, and teachers have kept students engaged this year in learning, personally and collectively, online or in the classroom.
I would like to make special mention of those staff who were recently recognised at the Catholic Schools Staff Breakfast for serving in Catholic education for 30 years, as well as those recognised for serving 40 years. It was an honour to be able to congratulate these staff members on this milestone, and I am grateful that our schools and our system benefit from the contribution of individuals with this level of dedication to their vocation.
In Catholic schools we see teachers become much-loved figures who provide support for students, families and all in their school communities, and are motivated by the desire to see each student thrive. Whether you have served for 40 years as a teacher, or have spent this year as your first getting to know your school community, thank you.
Teaching is a vocation, and the fruits of this service literally shape the world, as students are supported by teachers to achieve their best and to become people who contribute to their communities into the future. There are so many important aspects of what contributes to a good Catholic school, from the liturgical life, the involvement of families and P&F groups, to classrooms, play spaces and facilities that support students to feel at home as they learn, to digital technologies that are transforming the way learning happens. But tying all of this together are the teachers that come to school ready to give their best every day.
For all of you who are teachers and support staff, as well as my heartfelt thanks, I would like to leave you with some thoughts from Pope Francis on the importance of your work. In his encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis addressed fraternity and social friendship, but the following excerpt is of particular value for educators to reflect on:
I invite everyone to renewed hope, for hope “speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning. Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love… Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile”. Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope. (55)
This perspective of hope is essential to the realisation of our Strategic Directions, particularly Direction 2 – Catholic Schools of Excellence. Hope must be an inspiration and a motivation for us in striving to develop ‘whole Christian persons’.
Dr Debra Sayce
Catholic Education Western Australia