Home / Shifting gears: A veteran educator’s path to Highly Accomplished certification

Shifting gears:
A veteran educator's path to Highly Accomplished certification

Tanya McGowan, Ballarat Grammar /
08 April 2024

3 min read

The decision to pursue certification as a Highly Accomplished teacher was ‘a bit like contemplating a 100,000km service for an old HQ Holden’, writes Tanya McGowan, but the career overhaul was completely worth it.

Today marks another milestone in my career as an educator. It’s a journey that has been filled with twists, turns and unexpected detours across schools in NSW, the NT and now entering a period of stability as I settle into my 10th year at Ballarat Grammar.

I feel really honoured and humbled to be recognised as a Highly Accomplished teacher, however this achievement is not just a reflection of my efforts alone. It is also recognition over many years to all those teaching colleagues, mentors and inspiring leaders who have been instrumental in the development of who I am as a teacher.

Is there life left in the old girl?

The decision to pursue a Highly Accomplished accreditation in my 20th year of teaching was a bit like contemplating a 100,000 km service for an old HQ Holden. You know the one – that expensive, time-consuming service that is pretty much a complete overhaul.

Once a highly-tuned, in great demand and easily relocated teacher, I found myself wondering if there was still life and value left in the old girl, or whether I was ready for the scrap heap on the downhill slide to retirement.

Just like any classic car, I had pushed myself through many different terrains over the years. I had battled changing curriculums, different student needs or conflicting demands in schools and I even survived a pandemic.

The question was: among all the new bright, shiny models with those ‘whiz bang’ innovative features who I now shared my office with (and let me tell you my team is an amazing group of teachers), what was my worth and how could that value be assessed?

And so, thanks to Independent Schools Victoria, I began the journey to assess whether the engine was still firing on all cylinders or if it was time for a jump start, new spark plugs and a realignment.

Any good service needs some highly qualified mechanics, so thank you to the supportive staff who observed, questioned and talked to Junior School leaders and my colleagues. This was not always an easy or straightforward process. I questioned myself, doubted myself and – many times in the journey we made back and forth to Melbourne last year – relied on my Middle School and Senior School HALT colleagues from Ballarat Grammar to keep going.

Then there was the Head of the Junior School, Mark, and a team of others back at school who provided the guidance, encouragement. Not to mention those who provided ongoing ICT support and others who simply believed in me. With all those people as my ‘pit crew’ I found the strength to motor on. As I navigated through the twists and turns of the accreditation process, particularly those descriptors that just wouldn’t turn dark green, I discovered something profound: the value of staying in the race.

“As I navigated through the twists and turns of the accreditation process ... I discovered something profound: the value of staying in the race.”

— Tanya McGowan, Ballarat Grammar

Seasoned veterans and the value of staying 'in class'

Being recognised as a Highly Accomplished teacher isn’t just about personal validation. It’s about sending a message to the education community that staying in class is valued, and that the seasoned veterans (some may say museum pieces) still have something valuable to offer.

It’s about recognising that every teacher, no matter how many years they’ve been in the game, still has the potential to improve the way they are able to make a lasting impact on the lives of students (alongside their important role in the mentoring, support and development of their colleagues).

In closing, let us remember that just like that old HQ Holden, sometimes the complete overhaul is worth it. Every piece of evidence collected, for each descriptor for every standard, showed how we modelled, demonstrated, assessed, explained, collaborated and evaluated. Those verbs will be forever imprinted in my mind, but they form part of a body of evidence that is testament to how I now view myself as a teacher.

I understand my worth and, thankfully, retirement is still a long way off.

Tanya McGowan is the Year 5 and 6 Coordinator at Ballarat Grammar.

This article is an edited version of Tanya’s reflections that she shared at last month’s ceremony for ISV’s second cohort of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers (HALT).


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