Amy Mortimer

Amy Mortimer graduated from the Master of Teaching degree in 2002 (2002) and has since been teaching at a public school in south Sydney. Her roles have included classroom teaching and leadership positions across all grades and stages of primary education. In addition to her teaching role, Amy is undertaking a doctorate here at the University of Sydney, researching the role of Creativity in Education.

In Amy’s work a particular focus has been on the impact that creative writing has on primary students. This research has led to her current role of implementing 21st Century skills across her school as part of their 3-5yr strategic plan. Her focus is on developing teacher knowledge supporting its implementation in the classroom.

1. Could you tell us about yourself, your background, how you ultimately became a teacher/social worker?
I had completed an undergraduate degree in the UK and was working as a TESOL teacher for private colleges in Sydney when I started the Master of Teaching – Primary. I went to an alternative primary school between the ages of 5-9 and decided that I wanted to put back into education what I got out of it. Teaching English to adults was a good starting point, but my passion was in Primary Education.

2. What’s your current role?
I was fortunate enough to be a targeted graduate and land a permanent position with the DEC the year I finished my Masters. I have taught extensively across the primary grades since, but am now part of the leadership team at my current school. I’ve been lucky enough to combine my PhD studies with my teaching and am involved in Teacher Professional Learning (TPL) across the school. I work alongside the staff to support the implementation of our school plan, specifically focusing on the role of the 4Cs within 21st Century Learning (Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking and Communication).

3. What degree/s did you complete and was there something in particular that attracted you to these courses of study?
I did the Master of Teaching (Primary). I chose this post-graduate course over the DipEd, because it offered an honours component and I was interested in the research side of education as well as the practical side of teaching. I also thought, that as a mature aged student, if I was going to do a post-graduate course, I might as well make it a Masters.

I’m currently completing a PhD with a focus on creativity and education. The research bug bit me during the Masters but I wanted to get some substantial teaching experience under my belt before engaging in a Higher Research Degree. Having a young family also put the brakes on committing to a PhD. My three kids are now a bit older and my time a little freer (!).

4. How has your degree supported you in your professional life?
I couldn’t teach without my MTeach qualification. It’s integral to my position. The internship at the end of the Masters also provided me with a realistic experience of what classroom teaching was like. The PhD has given me the opportunity to teach in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work and I hope to continue to do this once I finish.

5. What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
I would have to say the collaborative relationships I built with peers and staff. I didn’t really get involved in the social life of the University as was busy working, paying of mortgage and juggling family life.

6. Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
There were a number of people who strongly influenced my learning, they included Professor Robyn Ewing (Drama), Dr Robyn Gibson (Visual Art), Sharne Aldridge & Associate Professor Janette Bobis (Maths) and Sandra Newell (HSIE). All these lecturers, and many more, were inspiring and deeply passionate about their work. When I’m not satisfied with an HSIE lesson plan, I’ll still ask myself “What would Sandra say about this?” and that’s 14yrs on!!

I’m also fortunate enough to now have Robyn Ewing as my PhD supervisor. It was largely because of her encouragement that I signed up to do the PhD and she has supported and believed in me ever since. For that I am truly grateful.

7. What is the mantra you live by and what drives you?
Remember why you signed up and don’t let bureaucracy get you down. Live your passion and let your goals drive you. My goal was to make a difference to the lives of young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. I hope that I can do more of that in the future.

8. What are your plans for the future?
In the short term: complete my PhD! Long term: I’d like to combine research with teaching. I would miss the classroom too much to leave school completely, but can see an avenue in working alongside schools to implement professional development at a classroom level. I’m particularly passionate about the role of the Arts and Creativity in education and the impact that it can have on students’ learning.

9. What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
My advice would be to remember what drove you to undertake the course in the first place. Sometimes the reality of life, with all its challenges and hurdles makes you lose sight of this. It’s important to touch base with your goals from time to time or you’ll get swamped with the mundane instead of being inspired by your passion.

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