How did Oak Flats High School become professional learning champions?

The Jamberoo Centre Staff: Greg, Mellissa, Kate, Jo, Rebecca, Hannah, Josh, Kristian, Christopher, Sue, Amy & Barry. Absent: Tanya, Mish, Aaran, Sara, Pete & Nik

This year Oak Flats High School NSW celebrates its fifth year of professional learning with Australian Teacher Aide, where Jo Opie, Head Teacher at the Jamberoo Special Education Centre, has been leading her team of SLSOs on a successful professional learning journey.

Jo described the ATA resources as brilliant, and said that she had seen amazing growth in the support skills, communication, and research skills of her SLSOs, which has benefited the way they work with students.

The ATA website has provided me with an assortment of hugely beneficial resources and training. I have been extremely impressed by the variety of training available, especially within special needs. I look forward to completing my next module! - Christopher, SLSO

Jo started out as a teacher aide in her twenties, and her first-hand experience in this role continues to influence the way Jo actively promotes a collaborative school culture by building the expertise of all staff. According to Jo, teachers and SLSOs may do different work, but together they are a team!

At the centre, there are six classes of students with autism and two classes of students with behavioural difficulty, and Jo has created an inclusive learning environment that values relationships, diversity, and communication.

“In a high school where 85% of the students in the special education unit are boys, we have worked hard to ensure that there are male SLSOs that the boys can relate to, as well as genuine diversity among staff.” 

In 2019, Jo developed a professional learning program called The Student Wellbeing Project, that focused on championing vulnerable students. The purpose of the project was to enable SLSOs to communicate more effectively with students with additional needs, both verbally and nonverbally, and apply strategies that lead to positive outcomes for students.

Jo used the five-part Australian Teacher Aide behaviour series, The Balance Model, as the basis for their online learning, along with the NSW Department of Education and Training Wellbeing Frameworks, and the ‘Every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools’ Paper.

Staff were provided with opportunities to view the Balance Model videos, complete the workbook activities, self-reflect on current practice, observe students, do further readings, have team discussions, and develop individual action plans for improvement.  

Jo, along with Kristian Johnson, facilitated the professional learning over a period of 6 months, and supported the progress of the SLSOs with regular timetabled meetings.

Taking part in this program was a good chance to reflect on my strengths as an SLSO and to work and collaborate with other SLSOs in identifying areas I could improve, and different practices others used with students that I could implement. It really helped build our team and opened the lines of communication. - Rebecca, SLSO

Jo’s ongoing commitment to building the expertise of staff leaves no doubt that the team at Oak Flats High School truly are professional learning champions!

View our Professional Development Planner for Schools for a comprehensive list of resources.