Teachers share their stories in honour of World Teacher’s Day

As the IGS community acknowledges the efforts and important contributions teachers make to our lives, we share some of their stories.

Find out what inspired David Smith, Michelle Tenkate, Claire Loh, Amelia Phillips, Nik Glass, Megan Sampson, Machiko Ohta, Jessica Slater and Carmelo Fedele to become a teacher, what they love about teaching, and their greatest teaching moment so far. 

Primary Digital Innovator and Year 5 Gold Homeroom Teacher

Primary Digital Innovator and Year 5 Gold Homeroom Teacher David Smith was inspired to become a teacher from a young age (see below a photo of David writing on a chalkboard in 1976). David watched as his three older siblings became teachers. Following in their footsteps, David said he admired the idea of working alongside students in a vibrant classroom rather than an office job.

One of the things he loves about being a teacher is watching every student have that “AHA” moment.

“Lightbulbs turn on when they understand a concept for the first time. The joy on their face is totally priceless,” he said.

David said he feels lucky to have so many special teaching moments at IGS, but recalls one standout memory.

“Probably the most endearing in recent memory is Samuel Gadsden IGS Class and Dux of 2016, who acknowledged me in a Sydney Morning Herald article following his recent HSC success. He stated that he was inspired to look towards a career in global politics after having me as his Year 6 teacher. That was just gold to read.”

Acting Deputy Director of Early Learning Michelle Tenkate

At the age of 11, Michelle knew she wanted to become a teacher. 

“When I started studying early childhood education I was particularly fascinated learning about stages of development and how young children learn through play,” Michelle said. 

Michelle loves the relationships that are built with the children she teachers.

“I love how at IGS Early Learning we work with a group of children for two years, so I get to see the children grow from timid three-year-olds to robust, independent five-year-olds, ready to conquer their next big step in Primary School.”

When asked what her favourite teaching moment was Michelle said, “There was a little boy who had recently migrated to Australia and did not yet speak English,” she said.

“He was very scared and withdrawn and it took a lot of care and time for him to feel comfortable at school. One day in the playground, a couple of months after he started with us, he took me by the hand and led me to a little table and tea-set he had set up, indicated that I sit down across from him, and then he sang “Happy Birthday” to me.

“I knew on that day that I was going to be a life-long early childhood teacher.”

Science Teacher Claire Loh

When Claire’s son attended the early childhood centre at Montessori, she was quickly inspired by teacher Amy Morin to become a teacher herself.

“It was a parent-run school and I served as Company Secretary,” Claire said.

“Amy took the time to teach me about pedagogy and let me observe in her classroom. I enrolled for my teaching course the very next year with the hope I’d one day be as good as she was.

“I love being in the classroom and learning from the students – they have taught me more about life than I could ever have learned from a book. Plus, as everyone knows, chemistry is my true and eternal love, and my mission in life is to make sure my students feel the same.”

When asked about her favourite teaching moment, Claire said, “Last year, I received a message via LinkedIn from a student I taught nine years ago. He made the effort to find me all those years later and wrote that my Year 8 lessons inspired in him a love of science which carried him forward towards his current career in medicine,” she said.

“I felt happy to have made a difference.”

Year 1 Teacher and Head of Kindergarten to Year 2 Jessica Slater

“Education is power and I feel very privileged to have benefited from our superb education system, to be a teacher and to be an advocate for children and issues of social justice,” Jessica said.

“My mum was raised in an orphanage in the Philippines because her mother could not afford to feed all of her six children after her father died. Even though it was very, very harsh in the Catholic orphanage, the nuns tied children to beds and made them kneel on rock salt in the sun as punishment, my mum learned to read and write in English as well as in her native language.

“When she came to Australia with her family years later, because of that education, she was able to study and make a really great life for herself. Both my parents were migrants and drummed into me the value of education.”

Jessica said she loves the authenticity, the energy, and the vibrancy of working alongside students every day.

“I want them to love all aspects of themselves and to believe that they are more than enough,” she said.

Jessica said of all the sensational teaching moments she has experienced at IGS, nothing compares to celebrating her birthday with her students.

“I just love when my birthday comes around each year and the very small people in my class ask me if I’m 18 or 21 or 89 and in which language should they sing the birthday song to me,” she said.

Assistant Head of Junior School Languages and Japanese Teacher Machiko Ohta

“Being a teacher has always been a familiar occupation that I have been drawn to since a young age,” Machiko sensei said.

Her mother is a teacher, and, growing up, Machiko said she respected the work and the difference her mother made in her students’ lives.

When she visited Australia during a High School exchange program, Machiko felt inspired to share her culture and language in Australia at a higher level.

Machiko feels proud to be able to share her Japanese culture and enrich her students’ lives through teaching.

“I love working with my students and feel great accomplishment when they use the Japanese language to communicate with me, and laugh at my silly jokes in Japanese,” she said.

“I have many great memories from teaching at IGS, watching my students’ hard-earned efforts being performed on stage at our assemblies always makes me feel proud.

“The greatest part of my job is watching young students grow into young adults and retain what I have taught them, and really experiencing the Japanese language and culture. “

English and Drama Teacher Megan Sampson

Megan’s own teachers who taught with creativity and passion and whose teaching went beyond the classroom inspired her to follow the same career path.

“Mrs Eve, my Year 4 teacher, Ms Myers my Year 6 teacher, Ms Barrett-Brown my Year 8 and 9 English teacher and Ms Baker my Year 11 and 12 Society and Culture teacher,” Megan said.

When asked what she loves about teaching at IGS, Megan said: “There are always new plays, novels, poems and topics to teach, which presents exciting opportunities for innovation. I also love learning myself, and being a teacher is definitely also being a lifelong learner.

“My Year 10 Drama class have been doing their final rehearsals to prepare for their practical exam next week and it is an absolute joy watching them perform. Many of them I taught last year have grown so much in confidence and as creative critical thinkers. I am so proud of each of them for the work they have put in and the truth they have created in their characters. It’s these moments of teaching I love the most.”

Head of Sustainability Carmelo Fedele

Head of Sustainability Carmelo Fedele said his aspiration to become a teacher stems from the opportunity to be part of the learning of students, particularly in relation to developing an understanding of the world we live in, our place in it, and how we can create a more liveable and sustainable future.

“I love the laser-focus moments that come from genuine curiosity, the ‘penny-drop’ moments of new understanding, and the various emotional responses that arise from a comprehension of injustice that incites action and have the potential to create life-long purpose,” said Carmelo. 

When asked what his greatest teaching moment is he said, “there are too many to mention, but a recent highlight was the Sustainability Roundtable in Week 2. Over 20 students gave up three hours of their free time to participate because of genuine care for their environment and a determination to act.”

Head of Primary Music Nik Glass

“It was through playing in my High School concert band and a number of local rock bands that I began to consider music as a central focus in my life,” Nik said.

“In Year 9 that I began seriously thinking about music as a career pathway. A number of inspirational educators such as my band conductor helped me realise this was possible.”

In Year 12, Nik was offered a place at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he completed a Bachelor of Music Education.

“My desire to share a love of music with others underpinned my decision to teach. I never looked back,” he said.

“The opportunity to shape the learning of children is both a privilege and a responsibility. As a teacher, nothing is more inspiring to me than fostering a child’s learning. Seeing kids positively apply their knowledge and skills supercharges this process. This is what I strive to achieve as a teacher. 

“Early on in my career, I taught a Year 8 music class that contained a number of students with trauma in their lives. I quickly realised building positive relationships and trust was crucial in getting through to these kids,” he said.

“We played, laughed and problem-solved together, one song at a time. The crux of this experience for me was watching them perform together in bands at the end of the unit. For a moment in time the distraction of music performance empowered these students to achieve beyond what they thought was possible.”

Careers Advisor Amelia Phillips

Amelia recalls taking any opportunity she could to write on the whiteboard during High School.

The Careers Advisor said her favourite game as a child was pretending to be a teacher. 

“I did work experience in a primary school in Year 10, but the idea of teaching got lost in Years 11 and 12 when I discovered my love of business studies and decided I wanted to wear a suit and carry a briefcase,” she said.

“Having completed my Bachelor of Tourism Management Degree, and after working in event management my desire to teach reemerged and back to university I went.”

Amelia said she enjoys giving careers advice at IGS and admires the way her students see the world.