School’s Out: Siena College Leader of Pedagogy Donna Laughlin

Siena College's Donna Laughlin. Photo: Greg Briggs

Siena College's Donna Laughlin. Photo: Greg Briggs

Donna Laughlin was inspired by her own educational experiences (and teachers) to become a teacher herself. She has been at Siena College for 10 years, recently taking on the role as Leader of Pedagogy, where she seeks to inspire teachers in their craft and students in their learning.

What is your favourite school memory?

One of my best memories was being part of the year 10 EIS (Eastern Independent Schools) softball grand final winning team. I was catcher and, with the team, orchestrated a double play to get two players out in one play in the final innings. Our hard work at training and all combining together enabled us to win the trophy that year. Within the classroom, another favourite memory was my love of studying Pride and Prejudice (in year 11 literature) and the entertaining and engaging class discussions at John Paul College covering love, marriage, and the humour of Jane Austen.

When you were at school, what type of student were you?

I loved school. I loved the learning, I loved the interaction and the relationships built with the teachers and I enjoyed engaging with new information. I was sporty, studious and enthusiastic but someone who did not want the spotlight for myself.

What (or who) inspired you to become a teacher?

My grade 5 teacher at St John’s Primary School Mrs Anstey, who took the time to build relationships with her students. She seemed to just know when something was wrong and helped me greatly to understand how to deal with the challenges of moving schools. In secondary school I was blessed with many enthusiastic teachers who were passionate about their craft and their area of expertise. I enjoyed strong relationships with many of my teachers, including my maths teacher Mr Sanders, who I was lucky enough to have for three of my six years of schooling. He was an older teacher who came across as a “grump” but who, like Mrs Anstey, took the time to build relationships with all his students.

When did you start teaching?

I started my career in 1995 at Salesian College in Chadstone.

What was your first day of class as a teacher like?

Nerve-racking, challenging, invigorating and exhausting but it confirmed this is where I wanted to be. On the advice of the year level coordinator I had learnt the “naughty” student’s name so, when he acted up in the first two minutes, I was able to refer to him by name and tell him to stop. It stunned him and others and gave me kudos with him immediately. Even though it was initially done as a control strategy, it actually formed the basis of my teaching approach. Learning student names and forming a connection with them to assist them to best achieve is the core. The individual is important.

As an English teacher, where did your love of reading and the written word come from?

My mum – she loves reading a variety of things. I loved books as a child, I would read every night in bed and, if the book was good, during the day as well. I am the eldest of five (I have four brothers) and mum would go to the library once a week as “her time”. I would ask to go with her and would bury myself in the children’s section while she made her way around the adult fiction.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Silk Roads – A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan, looking at history through the lens of the Middle East.

What do you love about working in all-girls’ education?

I love the opportunity to see girls demonstrate a confidence that I never had until I was much older, that is inspiring. Also to continue to impart the joy that I was able to experience while I was at school through building relationships with the students that I teach and many that I just meet throughout my day. To ignite a desire to learn and know that I am making a difference in the life of young women.

What inspires you in your work?

My colleagues who are always looking to provide opportunities for student growth and development; and the opportunity to share the journey of learning with students and walk with them along their journey, as well as the opportunity to have a positive impact on the young women who will influence the future of our society.

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