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29 Jun 2023

TEP23 Artful Reflections

TEP artful reflections

We asked some of our 2023 Teaching Excellence Program teachers to consider and express what it means to be a teacher. These artful reflections are an exploration of the role teachers play both in the classroom and our communities more broadly.

TEP23 Artful Reflections



Yolander Greigeritsch - Highton Primary School

For me – my profile as a teacher will always be focused on the learning of the children and the professional relationships that I build with the students in my classroom that will drive my teaching. My teacher portrait is titled UNFINISHED – this can describe in one word how I feel about my position as a teacher – no matter how old I am I will always remain unfinished suggesting that I will always be driven to learn and challenge myself to try something new to improve the quality of my teaching in the hope that this inspires and drives my students to be engaged and inquisitive learners. 

This visual representation displays my beliefs of my own expectations for myself that I want to impart and convey in my classroom. 

Here in this collage you see that layers of my teaching life - in the background the unfinished personal artwork and while my teaching takes me away from this because I never seem to have the time to finish the personal artwork, instead of this making me resentful it empowers me to think that I am dedicated to my teaching and that it is of such high importance and it make me feel like I make a difference to the student that I teach. 

In the foreground you see the environment that I want to create in my classroom. The therapy dog that without a doubt has been so overwhelming beneficial to creating a calm and safe space in my classroom. This embodies that fact that without that safe and calm environment the learning cannot take place. 

In the middle of this is me a dedicated teacher providing my experience that I have gained internationally and in Australia, leaving the unfinished work in preference of always trying to learn something new – for example like becoming a therapy dog handler as it is well researched that the benefits of interactions with a therapy dog has been shown to: improve self-esteem; provide feelings of acceptance from others; lift mood; support emotional self-regulation; have a calming effect; and reduce anxiety. Which since the introduction of Koda into the classroom have been demonstrated time and time again. 

The layers of this collage represent my teaching by showing that it will never be finished, the ongoing learning of the teaching pedagogy, the continual training of a therapy dog, and the willingness to always implement and try something new in the classroom. Why? Because if I know it all that is the day that I no longer need to teach – therefore my teaching life should always remain UNFINISHED! 


Lyndell Allen - Newington Primary School

The space and encouragement to creating this portrait has been a fabulous opportunity to consider me as teacher. Although I struggled terribly with the initial “metaphor for me as teacher” activity, during my train ride home I realised what this is for me. I am “a multi-adaptor, providing endless ways for students to “plug in to learning (and life?) through me”. When I think about what is at my core, I know that I am all about connection. Love (both giving and allowing myself to receive) is my top character strength, and I believe this is probably also true for me as a teacher. I am that crocheted heart in the middle of my portrait.

Yes, I often wear my heart on my sleeve and yes, that sometimes hurts; but I can’t help caring deeply about all people I connect with – students, staff, families, and the wider community – within and outside of the work I do. It is who I am! Behind the warm-fuzzy heart, that actively beats for others and cares for their failures, successes, progress, and growth, is a brain that is constantly troubleshooting – how can I improve my delivery so that they get what they need most efficiently and effectively. If you look at the back of my portrait you can see a busy brain filled with cogs turning, problem-solving 24/7. I teach to “connect to and provide opportunities for connecting to learning”. To convey the diversity of connections one might make I found many types of “adaptors” to turn “me” into a multi adapter… but many other connection types have come and gone, and some we don’t even know about yet (see the naked wires ready to attach to adaptors as they become available).

All of this is built atop of a pile of rocks, the “foundation stones” of my teaching practice. Read them and they will tell you about my beliefs, values, practices, motivations, and passions. They are not fixed down as sometimes I need to move different ideas to the front of my practice, add to these as I learn more about myself and loan them to others along the way.

“What are the weird wires and threads at the top?” I hear you wonder. While connections are established by finding ways for people to plug in, these connections are often enduring. They don’t stop when the family leaves the music room, choir, school, city, or country. The large wires represent different parts of my life and display my connections with people I have taught, or who have taught me, that I am still connected to today via teaching practice or my relationships. Even more interesting is to then notice the connections between those connected to me; the work colleague whose mum worked with my own, current choristers whose dad was in my first choir, the chorister from 25 years ago who is now studying composition beside my eldest child in Hobart. Life for me is all about connections and therefore so is my teaching.


Alison Norman - Woodleigh School

Being a teacher is a privilege. 

I love the visual arts and my career has, thus far, allowed me experiences in a range of settings; independent, government, catholic coeducation and girls’ only education. With secondary teaching qualifications, my experience runs from foundation to upper senior, where my students have achieved outstanding results at VCE level. 

In my classroom, I strive to enhance the way my students learn and grow.  In creating this self-portrait, I really thought about what it is that I want to communicate – whilst also knowing that there are an infinite number of self-portraits in art history and contemporary art. I want to convey in my piece a link between my own arts practice and communicating ideas, thoughts and reflections. 

Teaching is more than the outcome. It is also a journey. It’s the value add and the real-life relevance. Teaching is encouraging and supporting to bring out the best in yourself and your students, rather than only striving for perfection.  Teaching needs creativity. I believe that creativity is essential in developing a sense of self. Teaching art is, in fact, teaching life skills. Creative thinking, literacy, numeracy, flexibility and critical reflection are necessary skills for all that we do in our modern and evolving society. True lifelong learners all need creativity to contribute to our society with meaning; to think, to imagine, to reflect and to appreciate. Being an educator means that through the arts I support people to develop appropriate language and analytical thinking, and these are but a part of a lifelong skill set that must be shared, nurtured and encouraged.  

For me, creativity means embracing the challenges of our changing world and responding with curiosity and innovative thinking. Respectful Relationships. Thinking. Aspiring to learn and create every single day. 

That’s what teaching means to me. Here’s to the best teachers, may we know them, learn from them, and share with them. Knowledge is power and creativity is essential.


Claire Al Noah - Siena College

My teacher profile artwork demonstrates my philosophy of teaching as I like to create an open place for possibilities and wonder. This space has no answers yet. It is where the student thinking exists. It is for the new possibilities, the new ideas, the challenging thoughts, and ways of seeing that have not come before.  

My role is to acknowledge where the student is at and challenge them through their zone of proximal discomfort, so that they are exposed to ideas and through exploration of these within the class, they make connections with each other and their wider world and embrace the grey. When you look at my artwork, I hope you wonder and think.  


Abby Hansen - Maryborough Education Centre

Who am I as a teacher? A ponderous question indeed.

At first glance, my portrait is filled with vivid harmonious colours, reflecting my bright energy and enthusiasm for the profession. However, on further critique, the sheer curtain of colour reveal forming cracks amidst commencing chaos. My eyes are shut; a sign of my energy slowly depleting.

The shift in energy is a growing consequence from a variety of factors; the administrative expectations in curriculum delivery, the societal expectations still reeling from COVID, the continual advocacy for the importance of my discipline subject within the school community, the need to practise my own artistic creativity in the dwindling time left after the average busy day. I haven’t even begun to the mention the expectations and responsibilities in my own personal life.

There is an impending burnout that I need to be mindful of if I want to retain my love for teaching.

But, while my portrait still harnesses the colourful energy and there is still ample life left within my career, as evidenced by the light source in the left top corner and the still growing vines. Colour plays an important role in my teacher portrait. The variety of blue hues reflect the introspection and wisdom in my teaching practise. I yearn to discuss, to collaborate, to share thoughts and creativity in lesson delivery and assessment with my colleagues and students. The tinges of purple represent my ambitious nature. My need to strengthen my leadership capabilities and to impact school culture positively. The gold represents illumination, I like to read, to learn and explore different techniques and processes within my creative subject to further my skills as an educator and a practicing artist. The soft pinks represent my playfulness and nurturing teaching environment I strive for in my classroom.

The zen expression mirrors my calmness and my ability to rationalise and prioritise my many responsibilities at work. The many balls I am currently juggling, I can recognise those that are rubber and those that are glass.

The artistic process of completing my teacher portrait also reflects my teaching practise. I scraped paint across the canvas for the background and then applied some fine lined leaves symbolising the upwards growth of my teaching career. Next was a layer of blossoming roses, however before the roses were complete, I scraped more paint across the surface again, destroying the layer and applying a fresh semitransparent layer on top. This is symbolic for me as a reflective practitioner. I’m a perfectionist and a workaholic, I rip up my practise each year and begin afresh with new curriculum directions and teaching style based on new knowledge, new technologies and new class dynamics.

This is me. I’m colourful, multifaceted, enthusiastic, and ever growing. I just hope the positive trajectory continues upwards and doesn’t burn me out.


May Judson - Cornish College

To create my teacher portrait, I reflected on who I am as a teacher and the values I hold closest. Since beginning my teaching journey, I have learnt valuable lessons about how to survive (in those first few blurry, adrenalin-fuelled years) and more recently how to thrive. My portrait is a visual representation of four values that shape and guide my teaching practice: compassion, a sense of humour, creativity and a sense of purpose. For my portrait, I’ve represented each value with a flower. In a way, a school is like a garden: a tapestry of life sprouting and growing. It is our job as teachers to help the garden to grow and thrive while navigating the inevitable weeds, pests and unpredictable weather. Compassion is represented by the flower being showered with rain. In my work, compassion is understanding the invisible backpack that so many students lug around with them every day. This is a term often used at my school to remind teachers of the trauma and challenges that students carry into our classrooms. In the art room where we ask students to be vulnerable, independent, innovative and brave, compassion is paramount. It would be counterproductive to not also acknowledge the importance of self compassion.

Taking care of myself is something I’ve learnt to prioritise to ensure I can bring my best self to the classroom. Humour is represented by the upside down flower. In teaching, a sense of humour helps to lighten up a heavy day, shift my view to a different perspective and not take myself too seriously. Turning the flower upside down represents seeing things in a new light or from a new angle. Humour is something I value in colleagues as well as in myself. Being able to laugh at one another and laugh at yourself is something I’ve found therapeutic. To represent creativity, I’ve widened my colour palette and veered from the blueprint. In the classroom, I am always shifting, stretching, evolving and deviating from the plan. Being flexible and open-minded has become such an important part of my teaching practice. Some of the best lessons I’ve taught are ones where I’ve thrown the plan out the window and gone with my gut instinct. In my classroom, creativity looks like: modifying the plan to meet the needs of my students, embracing new ideas and opportunities, incorporating outdoor learning, making room for impromptu discussions or activities, encouraging flow and always imagining different ways of doing things.

The final value explored is a sense of purpose. To represent this, I’ve painted a collection of flowers, as for me a sense of purpose is intertwined with a sense of community. Collaborating with colleagues and discussing the purpose of teaching is something that drew me to this program and is ultimately the driving force for my teaching practice. What do we teach the students for? What is the point of it all? We can get so bogged down in details that we forget to take a step back and ask ourselves these fundamental questions. These are the roots of our practice without which we fail. This painting represents my community and my purpose, situating myself as one among many.


Lucie Kershaw - Richmond Primary School

Stuffed toys are distinguishable from other toys mainly by their softness and
flexibility. They foster creativity and imagination, they provide comfort and security and are engaging and entertaining. Not to mention fun, joyful, playful and quirky. Soft toys also teach compassion and how to be gentle and kind. These attributes sum up my personality as a teacher and what I strive to be in my classroom each and every day. These attributes help guide students to feel comfortable and safe to be able to take risks with their learning. I also encourage my students to think laterally and challenge their ideas, which is why I chose to make a soft toy as my self portrait.

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