I’m just a girl trying to change the world through education, literacy and literature.-Riss Leung
I’ve always loved books and reading. When I was in primary school, I was selected to be in Miss Patterson’s prestigious book contacting club. I spent my lunchtimes holding, smelling and reading beautiful new Australian books. I loved discussing the new books and dreamt of being a CBCA Book Week judge way back then!
I’ve been a writer since my year 1 teacher, Mrs Brown, said I was. I’m a lifelong lover of writing thanks to Mrs Brown and her writing workshop. I have fond memories of drafting, conferring and publishing books in my early schooling days. I still enjoy writing today and have even had some of my writing published (no picture books yet, but it’s still on my agenda!).
My goal in life is to hook everyone (students and teachers) on reading and writing in the same way my teachers did for me. Literacy opens doors. There’s plenty of research to prove the importance of literacy for both individuals and communities. I want everyone hooked (reading can, after all, seriously damage your ignorance.)
I’ve always been driven by the idea that postcode shouldn’t determine destiny. This is the reason I’ll always support charities who help reach kids in underprivileged areas and the reason I’ll always have loads of free resources alongside the paid ones; to help students in every school access the best teaching and education they deserve.
I have committed to donating 5% of the profits from all Oz Lit Teacher PDs to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. This organisation is working to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous literacy rates in Australia and they are doing some really great work!
My favourite author is Roald Dahl. I know, he isn’t Australian, but I’ve always loved his creativity and humour and his willingness to break the rules. Who said you can’t make up new words or frizzle someone like a fritter in a children’s book? I find all of his kids books simply scrumdiddlyumptious.
I’ve always been addicted to research. I’m not talking about the formal university kind (although I do have a Masters in ICT in Education), I’m talking about the “I’m super curious about this idea so I’m going to investigate it” kind. When I was in university, I became curious about ways to reengage boys who’d become disengaged with education. I learned how to breakdance, then went to a school and taught lunchtime classes. I took the newly trained breakdance team to do demos at other schools and ran an interschool breakdance competition. As time went along, I studied the impact the renewed self-confidence and sense of connection had on the boys’ classroom learning. The results were amazing and my understanding of the importance of social and emotional wellbeing was confirmed. I’ve done all types of mini research projects since then and each one makes me just as excited about learning new things as this one.
I took a risk and ‘broke the rules’ when I worked for the Victorian Education Department and was awarded a $50,000 scholarship for my troubles. I didn’t break any laws or agreements; I just did a bit of creative outside-the-box thinking. I used the scholarship money to visit schools and education departments in Singapore, the USA, Canada, China and India. I also visited tech companies such as Google, Intel and Cisco in Silicon Valley. I met some amazing educators on my travels and did an invaluable amount of learning about schools, education, learning, leadership, systems, cultures and people.
A student once told me I shouldn’t be the principal; it wasn’t because of my age though- it was because I was apparently too short for the job! I was a primary school principal for four years before becoming a consultant. People were always shocked when I told them I was the principal because I ‘looked too young.’ I never knew there was a lower age limit for the job!
There were so many things I loved about being a principal: the kids, the staff, the community, the unpredictability and the absolute satisfaction of leading and supporting others to be their best. Not all days were rosy though, I did get called Mrs Poopyhead once. Ouch! (Still getting over that one!)
I started Oz Lit Teacher because I was annoyed at the number of American mentor texts being used in Australian classrooms. Once teachers heard about the 6+1 traits of writing I noticed they’d inevitably do a google search for ‘6+1 trait mentor texts’ and end up with a crate of American mentor texts in their classrooms. These books had American spellings or were often about subjects that were irrelevant to the lives of Aussie kids. (Shouldn’t they learn about the Stolen Generation before they learn about the American Civil War?) The Australian publishing industry is full of AMAZING authors and illustrators and Oz Lit Teacher was born to help teachers learn more about them and their incredible books.
I LOVE my work as a consultant! One of the huge downsides of the principal job was that as much as I tried, I just didn’t get to spend enough of my time working directly on teaching and learning. As a consultant I now get to spend all day, every day focused directly on my passion; I’ve swapped my time reading reports and strategic plans and replaced it with reading professional books and lesson plans. (Oddly enough, I still work long hours, but it hardly feels like work when it’s reading…)
I now run professional development days for schools on most topics related to effective teaching, literacy and leadership as well as run online PDs for teachers. No two days or schools are the same; I do literacy and teaching audits in some schools, classroom observations and leadership planning in others and curriculum work in others.
If you want to get in contact with me about working with your school, or you have a suggestion for an online PD you’d like to see offered, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org