Suzanne Farley: Fostering Innovative Learners through Passionate Teaching
Suzanne Farley| Learning and Teaching

British Writer, C.S. Lewis once quoted, “The task of modern educators is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.” What C.S. Lewis said here is of utmost importance. A teacher is someone who goes beyond their way to ensure that all students achieve their fullest potential. However, that is not easy; they have the most challenging job. It is because every child is different from one another and hence, their pace of learning differs too.  Yet, it is a teacher who takes students from where they are to where they need to be. At some of the stages of our academic life, we all might have been positively affected by a particular teacher. He or she might have helped us learn that seemingly impossible concept with great ease. Such teachers not only impact our ideology and character but also change the way we look at learning.

Our gratitude towards all those teachers who go beyond their immediate duty to ensure that every student achieves their dreams and get the rightful education compelled us to meet some extraordinary educators and derive this edition. Portrayed below is the story of one such educator, Suzanne Farley, Deputy Principal Learning and Teaching, Caroline Chisholm Catholic College.  Ms. Farley tells her story and her evolution from a teacher to an educator .

“I began teaching in 2000. I started my career in Gippsland Victoria teaching Biology and Secondary Science subjects in regional Catholic secondary schools in Sale and Traralgon. My first leadership position was leading the Year 9 and 10 Curriculum as the Victorian Curriculum was introduced. We started to look at the curriculum differently around then, planning the curriculum outcomes as a two-year continuum. I grew up in Gippsland Victoria and attended school in Sale and was very grateful to the school for giving me my start.”

“After many years of teaching in the country, I felt it was time for a new challenge. Moving to work in the city was an opportunity and experience I thought I might regret if I didn’t take it. The students vary in so many ways and I have loved the different learning styles and needs that I have encountered.”

“I have worked with some incredible teachers in my career and was delighted when the opportunity arose to work with someone familiar. Coming to Caroline Chisholm Catholic College in the role of Director Learning Year 10 – 12 was exciting. The opportunity to move up to Deputy Principal came about shortly after my arrival.”

A Conscientious Educator

From the above-mentioned, we could understand Ms. Farley’s journey until now. However, it is not clear why she chose to be an educator.  Her reply to this was, “I was motivated by a desire to share my interest in the Sciences. During several years studying and in Science research, alone in a University laboratory, I was inspired by the opportunity to discuss the concepts and theories I love.”

However, fulfilling this desire of hers was not always easy. “When you talk about forums and selling an idea and a solution, you need to be objective enough to recognize that there is no one answer. Context is significant and you need to be creative to find solutions to challenges within a learning environment. Conferences provide an idea, but they need to be adapted,” comments Ms.Farley. However, her persistence and unfathomable love towards spreading knowledge encouraged her to overcome all the trepidations.

A Benchmark in Itself

Evolving as an educator with the care of details, accuracy, and reliability, Ms. Farley is not just a subject expert but also a teacher who wants students to have the right information. She says, “The best word that expresses me is conscientious. My role can be quite detailed oriented, and reliability and accuracy of information are important.”

It is safe to say that having such teachers at the helm of the institute upholds the mission of the institution and also ensures that students are nurtured in the right educational environment.

It made us curious to ask more about her present school. She says,

“Caroline Chisholm Catholic College is a co-educational secondary College in Melbourne’s inner west, dedicated to learning excellence in an engaged, faith-filled and supportive environment.”

“The school provides a rich pastoral care program that supports students as they enter high school and until they graduate from the College. We value positive relationships and partnerships between the College, home, and community. It provides for students in a safe, caring and enjoyable learning environment and a motivating and challenging educational environment.

The College has an established Primary Links Transition Program designed to support our new Year 7 students in helping them settle into their new environment. To us, it means welcoming them into a new community for the next six years.

Homeroom Teachers, House Coordinators, Directors of Campus and Deputy Principals oversee the wellbeing of their students and are involved in every stage of a student’s life at the College. They offer a valuable point of contact for parents who wish to discuss their child’s progress. They particularly concern themselves with the needs of the individual and with maintaining the standards and expectations of the College.”

“Academically, we provide a wide variety of opportunities across the academic curriculum, including VCE, VET and VCAL programs, as well as a comprehensive co-curricular program, spanning sport, music, art, drama, technology, maths, languages and social justice.

Our students’ academic results are strong; 95% of our Year 12 students have gone onto tertiary education, and in 2019, our median Study Score of 29 was well above the state average. The College DUX achieved an ATAR score of 97.2 and several students were successful in achieving scholarships to leading universities.”

Going Beyond the Immediate Duty

It is almost amazing to see educators like Ms. Farley with their profound knowledge and love towards learning bring changes in lives. But, has the thought of ‘how’ ever crossed your minds? Teaching, alike any profession has its challenges, but what kept Ms. Farley going. The answer is undying passion. She even says that it is a strong emotion that helps one choose their desired career.

She says, “A career decision should be made based on passion. It should be something you enjoy and find fulfillment in.”

However, that is not all it takes to succeed as an educator. She says, “Flexibility and patience – under ridden by love and care are the essentials of being a good educator. Students bring many challenges and educating them requires being able to find what motivates and inspires them. That can be time-consuming and frustrating and can send your plans into chaos. But the purpose of educating is to see students grow in their knowledge, their understanding, and their skills, so you need to have that flexibility and patience to go the extra mile.”

A Word from the Educator Herself

The Australian educational sector is currently at a very significant point. There is a shift from a traditional focus on the performance and academic achievement of students to a greater emphasis on the abilities of students to grow and achieve. Growth is becoming the catchphrase and it’s a positive move.

But, amidst all the change, how does one ensure that they overcome the challenges and focus on their result. “Be innovative. Never be afraid to try something new. Failure is not a bad thing, it’s integral to how we learn, so try new things, reflect and evaluate, but never be afraid to try something because it might not work,” concludes Ms. Farley.

Recent Posts