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Written By

Hannah Gray


College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

28 October 2021

Related Study Areas

Empowering communities

Teachers are the driving force in delivering education around the globe. They are leaders, they are learners, and they are at the forefront of building a better future.

JCU Education’s Associate Professor Helen Boon and Dr Tanya Doyle share their insights into the vital role that teachers play in our communities.

“Without teachers, we would have no other professions,” Helen says. “All essential activities are based on a teacher of some sort, whether that’s the teacher in a school, a teacher in a university a teacher in a workshop.

“Even in ancient times, teachers were instrumental in informing our beliefs, our philosophies, our skills. Teachers are essential to our progression as a civilisation.”

That social progression starts with the life-changing influence a teacher can have on just one student.

“Teachers invest in working towards learning progression for each student,” Tanya says. “Each student then has an opportunity to develop the sorts of skills and knowledge that they need to move forward in their life. That investment makes a profound difference in the lives of young people.”

Making a difference in one student’s life can make a difference in entire communities. Tanya says teachers work in partnership with families, connecting them to support networks to make sure students are supported to succeed. This promotes networks that are vital for learning, especially in communities that may experience social or economic disadvantages.

“Teachers develop literate and numerate citizens, people who have critical and creative thinking skills,” Tanya says. “That’s really important, given all the many complex problems that our world is already facing. Young people will need new knowledge and skills to face those challenges that are yet to come.”

Leading in crisis

Looking back over a school year marked by crisis, Helen and Tanya say teachers’ adaptability is what made them stand out during such an unprecedented time.

“Teachers in general are very adaptive individuals,” Helen says. “They adapt to each classroom. They consistently adapt to a whole new range of students. There are new curricula, new administrative requirements, new technologies.

“COVID-19 was another layer on top of all of that. It meant that teachers had to very quickly adapt their skill set to respond to their classes’ needs. But teachers have to be adaptive to last in their profession, so they were able to do it for this as well.”

Adapting their skill sets and teaching methods is something that Tanya says teachers were more than capable of.

“Teachers are classroom and curriculum experts,” Tanya says. “That means they’re able to look at what needs to be taught and assessed and how that’s defined by the curriculum, and then plan ways to support students to engage with those materials. So, because they know the curriculum so well, they can make adjustments to how they teach, whether that’s face-to-face, online, or in a hybrid mode.”

“The ways that teachers have been working this year with remote learning and learning from home, it’s just an extension of the adaptability that they already bring to their work.”

Dr Tanya Doyle

A female sport teacher stands outside with students
A female teacher helps one young student

Reimagining the future

Using adaptability to prepare for future changes is something that Helen says comes with the job.

“The future of our society is situated within teachers’ roles as well,” Helen says. “New ideas, which are developed in various areas of society, have to be placed back in the classroom so that teachers can then progress those ideas and enable students to use them.”

This teacher-driven progress is a global effort with global impacts.

“Teachers and those in education are the main instruments whereby developing countries can progress to move from developing into developed,” Helen says. “That development is the macro view of what happens in the micro setting of the classroom.”

Over the time that they have each spent teaching and training educators, Helen and Tanya say most teachers they have met don’t take the responsibility of being an instrument for progress lightly. World Teachers Day is an excellent opportunity to recognise how our teachers carry that responsibility and strive to make such progress.

“It’s an ethical profession and a hard-working profession,” Helen says. “I think society may not recognise how hard teachers work and how much time and energy they put into their work.”

“Teaching and education is a profession that requires intellectual work, empathy, flexibility, and patience,” Tanya says. “They work hard to support students and their families, and to identify and address any gaps in their students’ learning.

“It is so wonderful to recognise the commitment and dedication of teachers everywhere.”

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Researchers profile picture

Featured researcher

Associate Professor Helen Boon

Associate Professor

Helen Boon teaches in the areas of research methods, educational psychology, special needs, behavior management and science education. She has a strong research interest and experience in community resilience, climate change and the intersection of ethics, climate change and adaptation to climate change. Currently Helen is working towards enhancing the teaching profession’s profile in the community.

As Head of Education (2017-2019) Helen instigated a number of innovations and initiatives, including the Future Teachers Project with the Department of Education, the Education Conversation with the Department of Education and Catholic Education in Townsville and Cairns, and the Supervising Teacher Awards for Townsville and Cairns.


Researchers profile picture

Featured researcher

Dr Tanya Doyle


Dr Tanya Doyle is currently the First Year Experience Co-ordinator and a Lecturer in Education at James Cook University. Tanya is also the co-lead for the Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment (GTPA) at James Cook University. The GTPA is an authentic culminating assessment of preservice teachers’ competence in classroom practice assessed against the Graduate Teacher Standards (Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, AITSL, 2011).

Tanya's professional interests focus on the education of preservice teachers, particularly in relation to their enactment of evidence-informed practice. Her research interests include initial teacher education, education policy and parent engagement.