Education is Jacqui Pugh’s second career. After starting university, she took a 5-year gap sojourn and worked in five-star hotels and restaurants in Whistler, Canada and England.
After running her own hospitality and catering business from the age of 25, she returned to her original dream of being an Art teacher.
Who inspired you to teach?
My Year 5 teacher, Ms Cambridge, was pivotal as she instilled in her students a sense of creativity, ownership and responsibility in our learning journey. You could tell that she believed in us. We were given many opportunities such as public speaking, chess challenges, writing plays and having a voice with the Local Council. She also had a team of us redesign unused spaces off the library and transformed them into different themed reading caves, and we built a space age room with special effect lighting and large fibreglass animals for the Africa safari room. It was so innovative for the time that it was filmed for Simon Townsend’s television show, Wonder World.
My high school Art teacher, Mr Wetherby, also played a role in me becoming a teacher. The art rooms at lunchtimes were always a place of solace. Under his tutelage, I found a passion for Art History. He challenged his students to know the art timeline from Ancient Greece through to the 19th Century and not just the Western perspective. I often draw on this knowledge when I teach Conceptual or Political Art across time.
What do you enjoy about working at Fintona?
The teachers are so invested in their students and masters of their subjects. They have a great relationship and understanding of the girls and how they learn. The girls are also my inspiration; they are such a pleasure to teach. I will always remember the first lessons I taught at Fintona and the eagerness of the girls to learn. To watch them take in every word and ask questions without prompting is any teachers delight. At Fintona, there is so much more time to teach the deeper concepts that you don’t always get to do in other schools.
In your experience what do you believe has the greatest impact on successful learning outcomes for girls?
The aspect that has a significant impact on girls’ education is teacher efficacy, understanding and believing in each girl and the way they learn. I have seen this in action at Fintona. The teaching profession is an exciting field that is forever changing with new research coming out all the time compelling teachers to be flexible and open. Experienced teachers have a teacher tool kit they that they can bring to any situation and that will have an impact in their classroom at any given time. They can read what tools are needed for a specific lesson and are willing to change tools if it is not working. For example, one lesson they may need to use explicit teaching strategies, or learning intentions, another may need more formative feedback, while the next lesson may need worked examples. I like John Hattie’s quote “Know thy impact” and at Fintona this is evident.
What is your best advice for students?
I always encourage the Middle School girls to involve themselves in new opportunities. Try new things now when you are young. You don’t have to be an expert straight away as it may be something that needs practice or research. I know when I was at school I put my hand up for all different sports. I was not a swimmer and when they were short on the Water polo team I somehow agreed to have a go. I knew I wouldn’t be very good. This proved to be accurate as I almost drowned but now I can say I have tried Water polo. I also encourage girls not to pigeonhole themselves by saying “I am not sporty or I am only good at maths”. The brain is a fantastic muscle that can change with practice.
Who is your inspiration?
My parents inspired me to always believe that I can do anything you set your mind to (within reason). They also instilled in me a strong work ethic. Part of my growing up was on a sheep and wheat farm in country NSW, where there were always jobs to be done. Working alongside my parents on the farm never seemed like work, so I feel they inspired me to love what I do and never let work feel like a chore. I read a lot of biographies most recently Michelle Obama’s and Gail Kelly’s and I draw inspiration from their journey of making a difference.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love exploring new places and I am a passionate lifelong learner. I have always been drawn to the outdoors. Depending on the time of the year, it could be a summer beach camping, hiking, touring or skiing in winter. Since moving to Melbourne last year, I have been amazed by the cultural opportunities with the galleries, restaurants and performance spaces. I thought the current coronavirus situation and the forced isolation was going to be hard for me as I rarely spend time sitting still, but I have discovered the beautiful Melbourne walking trails, and I have an app to ensure I don’t get lost. Having time to be creative is also a priority. Lately, this has been painting and post isolation I want to take up ceramics again.