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Regional maths teacher gains global recognition


Jessica Nelson
25 June 2019

Southern Cross University teaching graduate and Master of Education student Holly Millican today received a prestigious Learning Edge Teaching Practice Award at Google HQ in Sydney.

Regional maths teacher Holly is one of five recipients of the prestigious award presented by the NSW Department of Education and Teachers Mutual Bank in partnership with international giants YouTube and Google.

After just two years as a teacher, it was Holly’s three-minute video submission to The Learning Edge competition that showcased the creative and innovative teaching methods she uses to inspire her students at South Grafton High School in regional NSW. In her mission to make mathematics fun she uses games, team-based learning and interactive techniques to better engage students in a universally challenging subject.

“I came across the competition on Facebook and no way did I think I was going to win it, so I couldn’t believe it when I received the call but I’m glad they looked past my amateur video skills to see my passion and love for teaching,” she said.

“This all-expenses paid trip to Sydney includes workshops with YouTube and Google, with famous maths youtuber Eddie Woo, so I’m really excited to be getting a video and technology masterclass.”

In 2014 a few years after high school, Holly completed Southern Cross University’s award-winning Preparing for Success Program before embarking on the University’s unique four-year double degree in Arts and Education (Primary and Secondary) which prepares teachers to work in any school setting, offered on campus at Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Gold Coast and online.

Now as a permanent full-time teacher, Holly, 25, is studying her Master of Education in student wellbeing and school leadership online through Southern Cross with the aim of one day becoming a school principal.

“From the first time I walked into a classroom on my first prac at a notoriously tough school, I’ve absolutely loved teaching, and I fall more and more in love with it every day,” she said.

“It’s definitely the right career choice for me. When I was looking at Uni courses I wanted to do something that made a difference in people’s lives and when you think about it, teachers have the opportunity to create a lot of impact during their career.

“One who made a huge impact on me was my Extension 2 English teacher in senior high school, who was just as excited and invested in my major work writing piece on as I was, and honestly his passion drove my passion and if I inspire that kind of passion even in one student, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do.”

Born in England, Holly moved to Australia at age two then later spent 15 years living in the USA nine months of the year and in Australia for three, following her parents’ work on the ski fields.

She says travelling a lot meant juggling two different schooling systems, but it produced in her a deep love for maths which stays the same no matter where you are in the world. When she heard there was a shortage of mathematics teachers in Australia, Holly decided to pursue the opportunity and landed herself a permanent job as soon as she completed her degree at Southern Cross.

While she knows her school will produce world-changing mathematicians, scientists and engineers, right now Holly is focussed on the kids “who’d prefer to be anywhere else.”

“I want to get kids engaged in maths so I try to show them how they will use it in real life after high school, and the doors and opportunities it will open for them – I know that’s how I can make a difference at my school,” she said.

“To be a teacher you have to have a passion for what you do and the best part is when you see a struggling kid finally ‘get it’ and it clicks for them – if that’s what gives you joy then you should become a teacher.”

Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said Holly’s remarkable story highlighted the calibre of education opportunities in regional communities such as Grafton.

“Holly’s story is a stellar example of Southern Cross University graduates applying their world-class education to create impact in communities across Australia and the world,” he said.

“A Southern Cross education not only positions you for success on the world stage, yet also equips you to work in regional communities in order to change the lives of students everywhere.”

Ashley Chang, Culture and Trends Manager at YouTube said: “More and more Aussies are coming to YouTube to learn, with educational videos generating hundreds of millions of views. The Learning Edge initiative is an incredible opportunity and we’re really excited to be able to support these five aspiring classroom pioneers who want to use YouTube to share their knowledge with the world.”