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Local Teacher Wins National Award

Corin Mackay    November 29, 2023    3 min read   

Forest Lake State High School’s Digital Technologies Head of Department, MJ Raatz, was awarded the 2023 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award in Canberra last month.

Held in Parliament House and supported by education inequality-fighting Schools Plus, the award.

“The night was full of fun and emotion, and highlighted the important role teachers play in students’ lives – academically, and helping with both wellbeing and community,” MJ said.

One of 12 teaching fellows and 10 early career teachers, MJ received his award for his fight against student absenteeism, bringing kids’ love of gaming to the curriculum, in an attempt to bring back a love for school and learning.

“I’m a strong believer in transforming a classroom into an engaging and fun environment where students learn key concepts, but also lead the way they want to learn,” he said.

“Let’s face it – who wouldn’t want to go to school and play esports? – yes, play games, but also learn about strategy, skill, wellbeing, mindset, losing well, winning well, and always trying to improve as a communicator.

“Imagine every person in your workplace being able to talk respectfully, give growth feedback, and support each other as a workplace goal,” he said.

(Left to right) Michael West (Bellbird Park State School), Oxley MP Milton Dick, and MJ Raatz at the award ceremony.

The program at Forest Lake SHS itself has helped bring students with under 80% attendance to over 95%, and is focussed directly on inclusivity, with over 25% of its participants having some kind of disability.

“Additionally, we’re looking at how our elite students can gamify exams to become even more awesome! 

“Currently we’re working towards making Microsoft Office Specialist history by getting the fastest times in the world for these world wide recognised tests, with thanks to our sponsors, Prodigy Learning, for their support,” MJ said.

“I’m really thankful for the Leadership Team at Forest Lake SHS who have embraced esports and its benefits for the students, in addition the universities like QUT who now have a Diploma of Esports for direct pathways to both jobs and bachelor degrees. 

“[It’s] such an amazing education system we’re now in – it’s so great to support equity and excellence – educational achievement, wellbeing and engagement, and culture and inclusion. How cool to make kids’ lives better!” he said.

MJ (back row, second from the left), and the twelve winning teaching fellows, which includes $25,000 school project fund.

Corin Mackay