Bellbird Park Secondary State College principal Michael West received a teaching fellowship award at a prestigious ceremony held in Canberra last month.
The 2023 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards ceremony, held at Parliament House in early September, is an initiative of Australian Schools Plus – a nonprofit dedicated to fighting education inequality.
This year, the awards recognised 22 teachers from across Australia for their innovation and unwavering commitment towards shaping a brighter future for students and school communities – particularly those in disadvantaged areas.
Twelve teachers received the Teaching Fellowship, valued at $40,000, including $25,000 for a strategic school project as well as an invitation to participate in a unique overseas professional learning program.
The 12 winners of the teaching fellowship award pose proudly together, including Michael West, back row, third from the right.
Mr West is the Foundation principal at Bellbird Park State Secondary College, and attended the ceremony in person to receive his fellowship prize and trophy.
In addition, 10 relatively new teachers received a scholarship prize valued at $10,000 to assist with their professional development.
According to Schools Plus, this year’s winners empowered students through personalised educational strategies, developed supportive wellbeing programs, and prepared students for a rapidly evolving technological environment.
Leading a school as principal is a huge responsibility, and it is a job Mr West takes very seriously.
“Education is the single most important protective factor in a child’s life,” he said.
“Teaching is such an incredible privilege, and children call upon us as educators to be their supporters and protectors.”
Markers for success
Mr West received praise for developing the school’s ‘Marker Students’ program – an innovative strategy wherein teachers identified student potential and planned out individualised strategies.
Bellbird Park is a relatively low socio-economic and highly multicultural suburb – with around 50 spoken languages and countries of birth represented.
Mr West’s goal was that all students, regardless of their background, have a clear and meaningful pathway beyond Year 12.
By all accounts, his strategy so far has led to a marked improvement in outcomes: 100% of graduates received their Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE), 100% achieved a VET qualification, 28% received an ATAR above 80%, 98% of graduates received an A to C across all subjects, and 100% of First Nations students received their QCE and transitioned to a meaningful pathway post-graduation.
It is “extremely fulfilling” to see the positive impacts of his approach, Mr West said.
“Student achievements and wins are a real highlight of my job as Principal.”
To contribute to the success, Mr West drew on the school’s ethos: “Together we are stronger”. He mobilised staff, engaged with students, parents, carers, and the wider community, and gathered feedback through online tools as well as in-person forums.
Earlier this year, Mr West also received the 2023 Government Secondary Principal of the Year Award by The Educator.
Oxley MP Milton Dick said Mr West was “more than deserving of this honour.”
“Only 22 teachers in all of Australia are receiving [one of these awards], so it’s massive that we’ve got two winners from the Oxley local community,” Mr Dick added.
Schools Plus is a registered charity that works with teachers and schools in disadvantaged areas to empower them with vital funding, coaching, and resources, ultimately helping close the education gap. Visit schoolsplus.org.au for more info.
For more details about Bellbird Park State Secondary College, visit bellbirdparkssc.eq.edu.au.