A math teacher in Tennant Creek is among Australia’s best.
Recently awarded a Choose Maths Teacher Excellence Award, Fiona McRobie was recognised for her student-centred approach to teaching.
This year, following the release of Naplan data, Tennant Creek High School was identified as showing significant improvements in numeracy.
“It was not necessarily because the students were better at math, they had become more confident in themselves as mathematicians,” Ms McRobie said.
Coming up to her third year at Tennant Creek High School, Ms McRobie has introduced a number of new initiatives to increase participation and engagement in the classroom.
This includes a mathematics club which attracts great interest, particularly with girls.
Ms McRobie aims to increase confidence and attitudes around mathematics.
This has had a flow-on effect in other areas of student learning and she is transforming attitudes among the community.
“I wanted to teach in a remote location, and Tennant Creek is about as remote as you can get.
“I wanted to be a part of working to improve outcomes for Indigenous students,” she said.
Tennant Creek High School faces challenges unlike many other parts of Australia.
“Attendance is a big challenge to overcome. Last year school attendance was at 65 per cent and that makes it hard for continuity.
“But much bigger than that, there is this sense of low expectation. Much of the community does not expect much of Tennant Creek High School students.
“So there is this lack of belief among the students of a good future. And if you believe you won’t have a good future it makes it much harder to work on it.
“The biggest challenge is overcoming that, because these students do have a future, these students are wonderful,” Ms McRobie said.
Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute program manager Janine McIntosh said while Ms McRobie has not been in Tennant Creek for a long time she has had a significant impact on student results.
“She has been really great at planning interesting units and engaging other teachers,” Ms McIntosh said.
“She is aware her students come from a wide range of educational scope and can adapt to that.
“She’s making math fun and accessible, and it is great that we can give her some recognition for her hard work,” she said.
Teacher Excellence Awards were also presented to:
ACT: Bruce Ferrington, Radford College
NSW: Lorien Mackriell, Campbelltown Performing Arts School
NSW: Sarah Rose, Singleton Heights Public School
NT: Fiona McRobie, Tennant Creek High School
QLD: Anne-Louise Gilbert, Eagle Junction State School
TAS: James Milne, Springlfield Gardens Primary School
VIC: Michael Minas, Williamstown North Primary School