September 2012

Mater Dei teacher wins Premier’s scholarship

Rebecca Gibbs, the Primary Co-ordinator at Mater Dei School, Camden, has been awarded a NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship which will enable her to travel overseas to undertake research and work with leading special education practitioners.

Rebecca, who has taught at Mater Dei since 2008, is one of 25 teachers from Government and non-Government schools across NSW who received a 2012 scholarship.

Rebecca’s award category, the Premier’s Sport and Tourism Youth Foundation Special Education Scholarship, provides recipients with the opportunity “to study exemplary practice in teaching students with disabilities, learning or behavioural difficulties”.

The focus of Rebecca’s study is the implementation of the new K-10 Australian school curriculum and the delivery of quality education programs for students with disabilities.

For three weeks she will spend time in North Carolina and Oregon in the United States, working alongside academics and researchers in special education as well as visiting schools.

“I will look at research being undertaken that focuses on evidence-based practices in regards to curriculum design and curriculum access for students with disabilities,” explained Rebecca.

“I am very passionate about the area of curriculum access for students with disabilities. I am equally passionate about current research and developments that are being undertaken in this area to ensure that practices and policies lead to the development of meaningful learning experiences for all students with disabilities.”

Rebecca said it was a “great honour” to receive the $10,000 scholarship. “I look forward to the opportunity to work in collaboration with experts in this field. I am excited about using this knowledge in the classroom and sharing what I have learned with my colleagues in NSW schools.”

Prior to Mater Dei, Rebecca spent 10 years teaching in mainstream schools but has always had an interest in special education.

“Growing up, my neighbour was a young person with a disability. Being an only child, he was like the big brother I never had. I learnt so much from him and the people who cared for his needs that I felt inspired to one day be involved in special education. He made me realise what a positive impact people with special needs can have on all our lives,” she said.

For Mater Dei School Principal, Tony Fitzgerald, Rebecca’s scholarship is not only a “wonderful tribute” to her, but also to the Mater Dei staff.

“It is reflective of a culture of innovative and committed teaching that finds expression every day in the classrooms at Mater Dei,” he explained.

“Rebecca’s research and experience will complement that work already being undertaken by our teaching staff and ensure that Mater Dei continues to be at the cutting edge of contemporary and innovative best practice in the education of students with an intellectual disability.”

Established as a special school by the Good Samaritan Sisters in 1957, Mater Dei provides early intervention therapy services, education and residential programs for babies, children and young people with an intellectual disability or developmental delay.

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