Q&A with Middle School Teacher Stella Gardner

​​How long have you been a teacher and when did you start at BGS?

I have been a teacher at BGS for 21 years, starting here in 1999. I have taught all year levels across both the Middle School and Senior School. Throughout my time here, I have been a teacher of Japanese, English and History as well as working in Academic Services. This year I am a Year 5 Form Tutor teaching English and History, and absolutely loving it.

 

Why were you inspired to become a teacher?

Growing up, I always loved school and learning. I had some wonderful teachers who taught me so much and I wanted to be able to pay that forward. I have always been very curious about the world and very passionate about my subject areas. Teaching is the perfect way to continue my love of learning and to help others along their journey. What I learn from my amazing students daily, continues to feed my enthusiasm and love of teaching.

 

What do you enjoy most about teaching BGS boys?

The boys at Brisbane Grammar School are incredibly passionate and full of energy. They are genuinely supportive of each other both in and out of the classroom. The culture of collaboration and learning is highly valued in our community. The boys inspire and motivate me to do my best, and every day with them is an adventure.

 

How do you make your classroom fun for students?

First and foremost, I always make sure that I get to know my students and their interests. Having that relationship of mutual respect and trust allows us to work hard and have fun in the classroom at the same time – learning should be fun for everyone. We run several competitions and rewards systems throughout the year in teams. For instance, we run group of the week, group of the term, trivia champions, question askers of the week, journals of the week, student of the week, as well as having classroom monitors and QR code card rewards for prizes or group points. Effective Thinking strategies, such as using Kagan structures in our classroom daily, makes learning fun for the boys. It gives them the opportunity to collaborate with different classmates, to work towards a common goal, to share their ideas, to get up out of their chairs and move around the room, to understand, develop and reflect on their thinking, while learning and having fun.

 

What's your favourite lesson/topic to teach and why?

This is a very difficult question to answer as I feel equally passionate about all the topics I teach. If I had to choose one, it would be working with the boys in our Student Wellbeing lessons. Creating effective thinkers in the classroom allows boys to appreciate their strengths and acknowledge any areas they could improve on, as well as have them recognise this in their classmates and work together for the benefit of each other. Seeing students grow in confidence, be honest and comfortable enough with each other to share their thoughts and ideas is very rewarding. The topics in our Year 5 program are specifically tailored to suit the emotional, mental and physical development of our boys. 

 

How has teaching changed since you started?

Having taught at BGS for a long time, I have seen many changes over the years. Our Student Wellbeing program underpins all that we do here. We are much more focused, as teachers, to develop not only the intellect of our students, but their capacity to become well-rounded and balanced young men. Academically, our focus has changed to a much more student-driven collaborative culture where effecting thinking strategies are taught in classrooms. In turn, this allows students to manage themselves and their progress across subjects and year levels.

 

Do you think the way students learn will change over the next decade?

I think the way students learn will most certainly continue to change as time goes on. As teachers and learners, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are constantly reflecting and revising our program to ensure we are at the forefront of educational practices and providing the very best for our students. I believe we are positioned extremely well for this at BGS.

 

What achievement are you most proud of as a teacher?

As a teacher, there are so many rewarding and memorable moments. You feel proud when you know your students are happy to come to school, when they are enthusiastically engaged in activities, when they have that 'light-bulb' moment, when they express their gratitude to a teacher or fellow student, or when you hear from a parent who is so grateful and says that being at BGS has made the world of difference to their son. Moments like these reaffirm that being a teacher is what I was meant to do. Probably the proudest moment for me comes at the end of the year when I reflect with my classes on our year together. I am always incredibly proud of the boys and the young men that they have become, so much that (as many people know), I cry saying goodbye to them at the end of the year as I am so immensely proud of each and every one of them.

If you had to name one thing that sets the BGS Middle School apart from other schools, what would it be?

The culture and community. We are very fortunate to be part of such a collaborative and robust environment. The opportunities for boys at this school, both in and out of the classroom, most definitely set us apart from other schools. We cater to all students; it is a very inclusive environment for boys.​

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