Tracey Jacobsen Image 1

Teacher Spotlight: Tracey Jacobsen

We take the time to shine the spot­light on Tracey Jacobsen

Tracey has been nom­i­nat­ed for this spot­light by both par­ents and peers, for the amaz­ing work Tracey and her col­leagues have been doing at this school. At the end of 2021, we were for­tu­nate enough to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk with both Tracey and the Head of School at Indie School Glenorchy, Lau­ren Watson.
Tracey Jacobsen Image 2

Hel­lo Lauren,

Thank you for tak­ing the time to answer some ques­tions about Tracey. We were con­tact­ed by a par­ent at your school, who told us how Tracey had been a for­ma­tive influ­ence in their child’s life. This kind of feed­back is obvi­ous­ly so valu­able, and some­thing that I’m sure would be of inspi­ra­tion to many.

Inspir­ing work doesn’t always get the expo­sure that it deserves, which is why we want­ed to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk with you and Tracey to shine the spot­light on the great work that she has been doing…

Can you please out­line Tracey’s role with­in your school? 

Offi­cial­ly, Tracey is the team leader in our Senior Sec­ondary class; over­see­ing the deliv­ery of all TASC cours­es to our Senior students.

Unof­fi­cial­ly, Tracey is a moth­er-fig­ure and pos­i­tive role mod­el to most, if not all, of the stu­dents in her class. 

What are some of the unique oppor­tu­ni­ties and joys for you and your team at Indie?

With a high teacher to stu­dent ratio, staff have increased capac­i­ty to work 1:1 with stu­dents; sup­port­ing them in an indi­vid­u­alised and holis­tic man­ner. As a reg­is­tered Inde­pen­dent, Alter­na­tive school, we are priv­i­leged with the flex­i­bil­i­ty to adapt and adjust our ped­a­gog­i­cal approach­es; con­tin­u­al­ly striv­ing toward re-engage­ment and suc­cess­ful edu­ca­tion­al out­comes for our stu­dents. Stu­dents and care­givers com­mon­ly state: we wish we’d found Indie soon­er. It is feed­back like this; reflect­ing the gen­uine pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence we can make in the lives of our stu­dents, along­side the heart­felt grat­i­tude of their care­givers, which makes our roles so rewarding. 

What makes the work that Tracey and your team have been doing so valuable?

Stu­dents at schools like ours are some of the most mar­gin­alised, dis­ad­van­taged and vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple in our com­mu­ni­ty. The val­ue of our work, there­fore, is vis­i­ble in our com­mit­ment to ser­vic­ing the needs of those stu­dents for whom the sys­tem has failed thus far. Most stu­dents enrol at Indie School with the sense that we are their only/​last chance at suc­cess­ful edu­ca­tion­al out­comes. Whilst this sen­ti­ment fos­ters an enor­mous sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty, it is also a key dri­ving fac­tor in our team’s vision to pro­vide a safe and sup­port­ive envi­ron­ment for all stu­dent to learn and grow holis­ti­cal­ly; facil­i­tat­ing hope and agency in their future pathways. 

Tracey embod­ies the school’s mis­sion to seek cre­ative solu­tions and remain open to changes which best meet the indi­vid­ual needs of our stu­dents; engag­ing stu­dents in rel­e­vant and acces­si­ble learn­ing expe­ri­ences which extend their prac­ti­cal, per­son­al and aca­d­e­m­ic skills. She is an expe­ri­enced edu­ca­tor who is pas­sion­ate about edu­ca­tion for all. But per­haps more impor­tant­ly, she pos­sess the per­son­al qual­i­ties nec­es­sary to elic­it­ing suc­cess­ful edu­ca­tion­al out­comes in our stu­dent cohort: emo­tion­al intel­li­gence, humil­i­ty, con­sis­ten­cy, patience, per­se­ver­ance, and a good sense of humour.

What is a key moti­va­tion for you and your team for 2022?

As a new­ly estab­lished school, we are focused on devel­op­ing a spe­cialised mod­el of edu­ca­tion which is sus­tain­able, suc­cess­ful in meet­ing the needs of our tar­get cohort, and reflec­tive of cur­rent best prac­tices. This goal is a key moti­va­tor of our ongo­ing engage­ment in both indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly in rela­tion to: stu­dent well­be­ing and pos­i­tive edu­ca­tion­al psy­chol­o­gy; strengths-based, rel­e­vant, cre­ative and respon­sive cur­ricu­lum pro­grams; trau­ma-informed prac­tices; and, evi­dence-based prac­tices. As a team, we are com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­al inno­va­tion; moti­vat­ed by our col­lec­tive belief in the right to, and val­ue of, qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion for all young peo­ple, regard­less of their back­ground and the chal­lenges they face.

Any fur­ther com­ments that you would like to add?

Tracey is tru­ly deserv­ing of this for­mal recog­ni­tion: she is a hard-work­ing, high­ly effec­tive and com­pas­sion­ate pro­fes­sion­al whose con­tri­bu­tion to our school is invaluable.

Hel­lo Tracey,

Hi Tracey,

Thank you for talk­ing with us today… We would love to cel­e­brate some of the great work that you and your team have been doing at Indie and share some of your expe­ri­ences and insights as a teacher.

So… tell us a lit­tle bit about your role and what you do at Indie?

I teach in the senior class at Indie, which con­sists of our stu­dents in Years 11, 12 and 13. Our approach is dif­fer­ent in that our stu­dents pick what they work on at what time – it is the epit­o­me of a stu­dent cen­tred rather than teacher dri­ven approach.

The main part of my role is to sup­port student’s learn­ing and devel­op­ment, based upon what their needs are at the time. I do a lot of one on one teach­ing, most­ly of Eng­lish, Maths and ICT, I sup­port emo­tion­al devel­op­ment and well­be­ing and I try to help our stu­dents work out what their strengths are and then use that knowl­edge to shape their learn­ing mate­ri­als for them. Our learn­ing envi­ron­ment is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent to a main­stream class and our senior teach­ing mod­el is dif­fer­ent. But, I also do what every oth­er teacher does, I write cur­ricu­lum, set assess­ments, write ILPs, do reports and so on. One of my main aims is to sup­port our senior stu­dents in gain­ing their TCE if pos­si­ble, and for most of them it is, even though many of them nev­er believed they could.

What moti­vates you on a dai­ly basis?

It’s corny, but mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. At Indie, we work with young peo­ple who have found main­stream edu­ca­tion has not worked for them, have fall­en through the gaps of the sys­tem or have strug­gled to find their place. Our stu­dents gen­er­al­ly have com­plex needs based on diag­nos­tics, fam­i­ly back­ground or trau­ma, and some­times a com­bi­na­tion of all three. I believe that edu­ca­tion is pow­er, and that gain­ing an edu­ca­tion is the thing that can make a dif­fer­ence to the lives of young peo­ple who nev­er thought they had any con­trol, oppor­tu­ni­ties or options. There is noth­ing like the feel­ing of mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in a young person’s life. 

What have you found to be the most inspir­ing aspect of being an educator?

It’s corny again, but I find the young peo­ple I work with inspir­ing. No mat­ter the school I have worked in, whether it was pub­lic or pri­vate, sec­u­lar or reli­gious, main­stream or alter­na­tive, the stu­dents are (in the most part) amaz­ing. As adults, we can learn a lot from young peo­ple, almost as much as they can learn from us. My favourite moments with stu­dents are always those moments where they realise, they can under­stand it, learn it, move past it, or over­come it; what­ev­er IT is. The moments where they see their own val­ue, intel­li­gence and worth.

What are you cur­rent­ly look­ing for­ward to for 2022?

In 2022, we will see the grad­u­a­tion of stu­dents who start­ed with us as Year 9s in our first year of oper­a­tion in 2019. I am very excit­ed to watch these young peo­ple, who start­ed with us very unsure of them­selves and their futures, grad­u­ate and gain their TCE, which for many of them was the last thing they thought they might do. 

What would you say has been a defin­ing moment (or moments) for you as an educator?

This ques­tion is tougher than it seems. I think for me, the moments that have defined being an edu­ca­tor are the end of every year. I’ve just sat with my col­leagues this after­noon to dis­cuss the end of year awards for the senior class, which had us reflect­ing on the growth and learn­ing of our stu­dents. This reflec­tion hap­pens every year, whether you are work­ing with younger year groups or old­er (I’ve worked with all year groups from Year 7 through to Year 13) and for me it is the most defin­ing moment of every year because it is an acknowl­edge­ment of the rea­son we are here. I do this job to help young peo­ple, at the end of the year I can reflect on their growth and see how they have grown, whether I’ve helped and maybe what I need to adjust for next time. (Of course, I don’t just look at their growth at the end of the year, it is con­stant, but the end of the year offers an over­all oppor­tu­ni­ty for reflec­tion). I love it when we strug­gle to nar­row down award recip­i­ents, as it demon­strates how well our stu­dents are doing, and that in itself is a defin­ing moment because it high­lights the rea­son we do the job we do.

How has the unique cir­cum­stances of the world in 2020 and 2021 shaped your day-to-day approach to edu­ca­tion? Has there been any­thing in par­tic­u­lar that sur­prised you?

I think we have been incred­i­bly lucky in Tas­ma­nia, in that we had min­i­mal dis­rup­tion due to lock­downs in com­par­i­son to many oth­er places. If any­thing, I’d say it has high­light­ed the need for adapt­abil­i­ty in schools and work­places. This fits pret­ty well with our approach at Indie, as adapt­abil­i­ty and a flex­i­ble approach are at the core of what we do. 

If you could sum­marise in 5 (or less) points, what advice would you offer to teach­ers start­ing off in their career?

  • Don’t take your­self too seri­ous­ly, no-one knows every­thing. In fact, the best teach­ers are always learn­ing them­selves. Being hum­ble and reflec­tive will be your great­est strengths.
  • Respond to the child NOT the behav­iour. Some­times, what is hap­pen­ing in their lives is more impor­tant or life chang­ing than what is hap­pen­ing in your classroom.
  • Be real if you want to make real con­nec­tions and remem­ber that real con­nec­tions lead to bet­ter out­comes for the child. Get to know your stu­dents as peo­ple not just as learners.
  • Remem­ber that it is their edu­ca­tion not yours, and they have a right to make deci­sions. Just because we think it is impor­tant for them, doesn’t mean it is, and even if it is, it’s our job to help them under­stand why.
  • Be open to learn­ing from your stu­dents, they know way more than we give them cred­it for, and our pos­i­tive respons­es to what they can teach us can have the biggest impact on their self-worth.

Any fur­ther com­ments that you would like to add?

I am so lucky to do the job I do in the place I do it. I work with the most amaz­ing young peo­ple. It’s not easy, in fact, some­times it’s heart­break­ing. Even though there are tough times, we have so much fun in our class­room. Get­ting the bal­ance right between the nur­tur­ing and down­time and the learn­ing and focus is no easy task, but it’s worth the headache to get it right. The hard­est thing about being a teacher is won­der­ing what hap­pened to that kid that you worked with, but putting in the effort to be there for them and help them work toward their goals is such a privilege. 

Some Key Takeaways:

1. Don’t take your­self too seri­ous­ly, no-one knows everything.

2. Respond to the child NOT the behaviour.

3. Be real if you want to make real con­nec­tions and remem­ber that real con­nec­tions lead to bet­ter out­comes for the child.

4. Remem­ber that it is their edu­ca­tion not yours, and they have a right to make decisions.

5. Be open to learn­ing from your stu­dents, they know way more than we give them cred­it for, and our pos­i­tive respons­es to what they can teach us can have the biggest impact on their self-worth.

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