OVER the past five years, parents from communities surrounding Katherine received a bit of extra involvement from one teacher, Sally Mackande, which dramatically improved the school life of students at Clyde Fenton Primary School.
Ms Mackande’s dedication was recognised earlier this month in Melbourne when she received the Arthur Hamilton Award, a national Australian Education Union honour for outstanding achievement in indigenous education.
Ms Mackande spent several years developing a night school program for parents from Rockhole, Binjari and Kalano to help them engage more with their children’s schoolwork.
“Building that relationship and having relationships with parents, it doesn’t matter whether they are indigenous or not, if you have that relationship, then the kids will come to school for a start and get stuck into their work, rather than thinking about ‘when is home time, when is lunch time,’” she said.
“So, that made a huge difference in the kids being at school.”
As well as developing a night school program that covered literacy, numeracy and digital literacy, Ms Mackande helped new teachers break the ice by taking them into the communities.
“When we got new teachers come to school, I would take them out and introduce them to families, and it helped break the ice,” she said.
When we got new teachers come to school, I would take them out and introduce them to families, and it helped break the ice.
“Some parents have had really bad experience at school and find it daunting to come to school, so I’d take [the new teachers] out for visits [in the communities].”
Australian Education Union Northern Territory branch president Jarvis Ryan said he was impressed with the work Ms Mackande had done in what he called “one of the most challenging jurisdictions”.
“Issues such as parent engagement and attendance of students meant the work Sally was doing was groundbreakingly positive, and she created a real model for other schools,” he said.
Ms Mackande is currently the acting teaching principal at Wugularr School and planned to “see how things go” at the end of the contract.
In the future, she said she aimed to take leave to study early childhood education.