As a student, Diane Burns had several teachers whose passion had such a positive effect on her, she decided to pursue the vocation herself.
Twenty-two years later, the primary teacher from Balgownie Public School is putting her heart and soul into her work and inspiring her own students – so much so that she has just won a NSW National Excellence in Teaching Award.
Ms Burns is one of just 10 teachers across the state’s primary and secondary education sectors to receive such recognition.
‘‘It’s very exciting to receive this award, I’m so humbled,’’ Ms Burns said. ‘‘It’s really nice that the school’s P&C made the nomination.’’
The part-time classroom, part-time school support teacher has put considerable time and effort into helping young boys at risk, leading a project to research boys’ engagement in education and establishing a junior Men’s Shed, which provides mentoring and positive role models for young male students.
‘‘We’ve seen some boys becoming more disengaged with school, and earlier. That’s why I started the junior Men’s Shed at the start of last year with the Corrimal Men’s Shed,’’ she said.
‘‘I saw a problem so I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to do something for the boys so they would enjoy their primary education.’’
Ms Burns said the men helped with woodwork projects and worked with year 6 boys in the school, who didn’t often experience a lot of sporting or academic success, or came from different situations where they were becoming disengaged from school. It gave the boys an opportunity to experience success at school.
‘‘People often write these kids off straight away but they’re really nice kids, they’re beautiful. It’s just that they sometimes get lost in the classroom, they turn off, they switch to not caring,’’ she said.
‘‘I build a rapport with them ... you need loads of good humour, and [you need to] demonstrate with actions and words that you value these children.
‘‘I’m not different to any other teacher, though. Lots of teachers do good things.
‘‘I just try and help these boys and all my students enjoy learning and be good people, no matter what their strengths and weaknesses are.’’