Friday, 18 Sep 2020

Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award

Dell Rathbone - 2020 Shortlisted Nominee

Since stepping into her first classroom of 66 students in Graceville in 1955, Dell Rathbone has taught three generations of Queensland children, and at 82 years young, she will tell you that she’s “not done yet!”

Dell is a fine educator, a pioneer and a picture of personal strength and resilience. As a young woman, Dell was passionate about Mathematics and Science, and at a time when these discipline areas were reserved for males, she could not be stopped.

Dell commenced her teaching career at 17 years old and soon moved to the country, where she dedicated 16 years to tirelessly serving country communities. After marrying, Dell was required to cease work and so, to maintain her skillset, she decided to educate her four children via School of the Air.

In 1973 Dell returned to Ipswich where she raised her children as a single parent. Dell has been a stalwart of the Ipswich educational landscape since then. Unsurprisingly, shortly after arriving at Ipswich, the talented educator was quickly asked to teach at Brassall State School, where she would eventually become Deputy Principal.

Throughout her teaching career, Dell’s belief in her students and steady commitment to their growth regardless of their ability level or circumstances, has been extraordinary.

Dell has been a trailblazer in this regard. Recognising, in an age before Autism was recognised by the medical community, that the regimented classroom setting of the 1950s was inappropriate for some of her students, Dell adopted a diverse range of pedagogical strategies and techniques to support her students.

Dell’s work with one student in particular caused her to be summoned by the student’s physician who wished to learn about the techniques she had been using to so positively impact the student’s life and learning. And so began Dell’s passion for equity, special education and curriculum differentiation.

Since 1994, Dell has worked at West Moreton Anglican College where she has held countless roles, including Head of ESL and Learning Support. In this role, Dell has developed a deep understanding of her students’ diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds and of teaching strategies that are most likely to be successful for these students.

She is a true polymath and has responsibility for the learning of students across many disciplines and year levels. Dell has developed extensive knowledge of the Australian Curriculum and the QCAA Senior Syllabuses. Her deep understanding of teaching strategies to develop literacy and numeracy is without doubt one of the major reasons for the success of so many of the school’s international students in post-school education.

Outside of school, in the 1980s Dell was seconded to the Queensland Department of Education, where she spent four years developing the first P-12 Maths Curriculum. In that time she was reporting directly to the Director-General and was instrumental in assisting with educational reform. Dell also authored the paper, ‘Equity in Education’, which influenced education in Queensland in a number of ways, including the integration of special education students into mainstream schooling, greater differentiation in the curriculum, introduction of a policy on gifted education and the creation of the Special Education Resources Centre.

As with many trailblazers, Dell’s spirited personality is characterised by true grit and unfaltering resilience. She is tenacious and stubborn, has an infectious zest for life and an insatiable thirst for knowledge. This approach has equipped her to meet and defeat life’s many challenges. A survivor of cancer and domestic violence, Dell has defiantly met every challenge head-on.

Dell’s philosophy is simple: learn from each experience. Knowledge acquisition and the application of skills, along with a positive mindset, enable one to overcome any obstacle. Dell learned early that having a well-credentialled, and well-known, father in education made things more difficult rather than easier for her. Instead of having doors opened for her, she was compared and dismissed – mostly found wanting due to her gender. These setbacks only fuelled her quest to learn and prove detractors wrong.

Queensland is fortunate to have you, Dell. Congratulations on being shortlisted for the TEACHX Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award.