Having received this prestigious fellowship, Assistant Head of English Mr David Taylor has now returned from overseas. Only twelve fellowships were awarded last year. Just four of those were to teachers and eight to principals and senior managers.
The Woolf Fisher Fellowship rewards educational excellence in teaching and The Woolf Fisher Trust has awarded around a thousand since it started in 1960.
Sir Woolf Fisher was the co-founder of Fisher and Paykel and foundation Chairman of NZ Steel. Passionate about education, he established The Woolf Fisher Trust in 1960 to fund overseas travel fellowships for outstanding teachers and principals; professionals whom he believed were lacking the recognition they deserved.
Originally reserved for secondary teachers, the fellowships are now awarded to teachers and principals throughout all school levels. The fellowship provides recipients an opportunity to observe and study teaching practices overseas. Mr Taylor travelled to Sydney, rural Victoria, Uluru and Brisbane, looking at literacy strategies for students who struggle with language. During the trip he visited schools, interviewed teachers and attended a Literary Conference in Sydney.
Sir Woolf Fisher was knighted in 1964 for his contribution to education and industry. He derived great pleasure from awarding the fellowships. Because of this, it is a policy of the Trust not to receive applications for the fellowship, but rather to bestow it upon unsuspecting recipients, selected through nominations.
When asked how it felt to have received the fellowship, Mr Taylor said, “It was quite overwhelming actually. There was a hand written envelope in my pigeon hole. I figured they had made a mistake. I read it through seven or eight times and was still overwhelmed.” “It took several days to believe it was true. I think the surprise definitely had a huge impact. When you are waiting for news you have expectations and scenarios in your head already. This was completely out of nowhere.”
Mr Taylor found it affirming that a lot of what is regarded as ‘best practise’ in Australia is happening at Northcote College. There were some new approaches and ideas along with stories that left Mr Taylor feeling inspired. Some strategies he is keen to implement at Northcote College, would see teachers supported and focussed on monitoring and developing the skills of pupils with low literacy.
“A really poignant moment was interviewing an Aboriginal teacher about education for Australia’s indigenous population. There are critical problems facing these people and the level of understanding about their culture is often very low. Even discussing the issue makes people uncomfortable. I think there are still serious issues which need to be addressed in terms of bicultural relationships in Aotearoa – we certainly shouldn’t think we have got it right – but the plight of Australia’s indigenous people is horrific.”
Mr Taylor has returned from his fellowship with renewed energy and has obviously found the experience highly rewarding. It is evident that Northcote College’s English Department will reap great benefit from the presentation of this fellowship also.