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"Never have you tried to change her." An open letter to my 11-year-old's teacher.

The NEiTA Foundation
Thanks to our brand partner, The NEiTA Foundation

Loud. Bossy. Disruptive. Know-it-all. These are the words I was so used to hearing when I visited my daughter’s previous school. Whether it was when meeting with her teachers, passing parents gossiping in the playground, or when reading her school reports. 

Often feeling exhausted, defeated and unheard, I learned to smile and nod but on the inside, my heart felt like it had just gone 12 rounds in a boxing ring.

My daughter is the love of my life. 

In a time when I never knew what real, unconditional love felt like, she entered my arms. I vowed to protect her at all costs, and I have. Fiercely. But sometimes, life can hand you unfortunate circumstances and people who just don’t fit in your world. When it came to my daughter's schooling, I used to question everything.

Image: Supplied. 

But then I met you.

Your wide eyes and warm smile were the first things that greeted me when I walked into the classroom for that very first parent information evening. When I shared who my daughter was, you absolutely beamed and proceeded to tell me how wonderful she is to have in class. That she focuses on her lessons, enjoys group work and has a lovely circle of friends.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. She can often forget to think before she speaks and does enjoy the casual chat in class. But you get her back on track. Not once have you told her that her behaviour is wrong, only that she can improve it. Never have you tried to change her, you have only ever told her to come as she is. And never ever have you gotten frustrated or tired of her lack of understanding — you break it down for her as many times as she needs to get it right.

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Because of this, her math has improved to a level where she has dusted off her NAPLAN workbook and been seen numerous times sitting quietly on her bed doing sums. Her public speaking has improved after you shared feedback with her that was constructive and implementable. She is so excited to do her next speech in front of the class this term. 

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You deserve a gold star. A medal. A smiley emoji. Something that recognises you and the selfless work you do in ensuring my daughter and all of her peers come to school every day knowing that they are wanted, needed and important. 

That's why I'm nominating you this year for the NEiTA Awards, the longest running, community-based awards program that recognises teaching excellence in Australia and New Zealand.

It acknowledges people like you — talented, committed and caring educators — who demonstrate the excellent personal qualities, skills and passion required of you as a teacher and school leader, directing the lives of our future leaders, . 

Over the last 27 years, NEiTA has received over 40,000 nominations for excellent and inspirational teachers with more than 1,100 teachers being recognised with an award. On top of that, NEiTA has presented over $1.2 million in professional development grants, prizes and endowments. I can’t think of a more deserving educator (and person) than you.

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It’s not just the teaching element you bring that makes a difference in her life, but the human element too. When my daughter had COVID earlier in the year, you didn’t hesitate to not only get her set up with work to do online, but you sent her your well wishes more than once. It is so easy to discount the impact of something as simple as a ‘hope you get well soon’ but to an 11-year-old girl, those words mean the world. 

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And when she comes home of an afternoon and tells me that she is tired of being picked on, I get so much reassurance in knowing that she already took action, feeling comfortable coming to you during the day for support and help. You take on the duty and burden of a mother when we can’t be there to do those things ourselves. 

You delivered a session in body awareness and consent to a room full of Year 5 girls giggling around you. You addressed the whole grade when social media became a challenge. And you went into conversations head-on about violence in the playground and why it is not okay.

You take on the shade when many only want to address the light because you know that the important conversations are ones that need to be had. You don’t want our kids to be left behind or placed at risk. You are so much more than a teacher and I really hope you know that. 

The biggest change I have seen in my little girl since being in your class, is something that we as adults can spend years trying to find: self-worth. Instead of being told she is intimidating or outspoken or ‘too much’, you have encouraged her to be herself and to use the amazing qualities she has in a positive way. Because as you have told her many times this year, she is awesome, and the world needs to see that. 

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Leader. 

Participator. 

Intelligent. 

These are the words you use to describe my daughter. A positive, encouraging perspective on the words that previously portrayed her as a difficult person to be around.

So thank you. For everything that you do. The things that aren’t your job and the things that are — you do it all with passion, love and commitment. Leaving your class at the end of the year is going to be tough, but you have set my daughter up beautifully for whatever life throws at her. She believes in herself just how I always have done.

The NEiTA Awards are open for nominations, and anyone in the wider school community, including parents, other teachers in the school, the school principal and school council members, can put forward a special educator for the award. 

To find out more, and to nominate, visit the website.

Feature Image: Supplied.

The NEiTA Foundation
The NEiTA Awards are open for nomination by anyone in the wider school community, including parents, other teachers in the school, the school principal and school council members. Visit neita.com to nominate an outstanding educator today.