Lara Pope says just being nominated in the 2019 NSW Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence was award enough. The deputy principal at Condell Park Public School was nominated by her principal, Sian Websdale, for excellence in education.

The annual awards showcase NSW public school students, teachers, staff and parents who have made major contributions to their school communities and serve as role models to their peers.

So when Pope was singled out as a winner, she felt acknowledged for her career-long dedication.

“It validates the countless hours over weeknights and weekends throughout my career dedicated to the crafting of my teaching, at the expense of time spent with my own family and friends, for the greater good of the communities I serve,” she says.

Pope’s role at Condell Park Public School is to support teachers and students in the area of literacy. Through a program called Teaching in Partnership, Pope works with teachers to assess and identify students’ learning needs. From there, she guides them through the selection of specific syllabus outcomes and the creation of lessons and assessments.

“They decide which lessons we teach together, which lessons I model or which lessons they teach where I observe and provide constructive feedback,” she says. “After the lessons have been taught, we evaluate which teaching strategies were most effective.”

Pope says that early in her career, she was influenced and mentored by a “brilliant” literacy consultant who instilled in her a love of language. It was through this professional relationship that Pope began to understand the central role language plays in the development of literacy. Since then, she has worked with other principals who have given her opportunities to deepen her understanding.

As part of the NSW Literacy and Numeracy strategy program 2017-2020, so-called Instructional Leaders like her are employed through Early Action for Success – the education department’s program to improve students’ literacy and numeracy performance in the early years of schooling – and are responsible for collecting, analysing, tracking and monitoring student progress against syllabus standards to determine learning needs.

“Throughout my teaching career, I have taught in schools situated in low socio-economic areas where the majority of students speak English as an additional language or dialect and require explicit teaching to build their English language skills to effectively communicate,” Pope says.

Through working “shoulder to shoulder” with colleagues as a classroom teacher, in an assistant principal role as a mentor to team members and as Instructional Leader, Pope continues to make a valuable contribution.

For more on the awards see