Notre Dame students receive prestigious education awards

A bright future lies ahead for Symone Rovella De Sousa and Eliza Cannon, Notre Dame Education graduates, who have both received prestigious awards from the Australian College of Educators

8 February 2017

A bright future lies ahead for Symone Rovella De Sousa and Eliza Cannon, Notre Dame Education graduates, who have both received prestigious awards from the Australian College of Educators.

Both graduates received Outstanding Graduate Awards, Inner Sydney Region, 2016, which recognised their commitment to teaching, academic achievement and community work.

Eliza, a Bachelor of Education (Primary) graduate, said the award acknowledged her passion for children and their right to be safe and educated.

“It is a very humbling affirmation of my dedication and persistence over the past four years and I feel very lucky to have received it,” Eliza said.

Symone, a Bachelor of Education (Birth to Twelve Years) graduate, said the award acknowledged her dedication to teaching and “meant the world to her”.

“I’m extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished at Notre Dame and to be acknowledged for something I’m passionate about is amazing,” Symone said.

Eliza and Symone credit the overseas service-learning trips they undertook while at Notre Dame for helping shape their personal and teaching ethic. Service-learning provides students with an opportunity to improve the lives of people in need and that experience in turn supports their own learning, development and growth.

Symone travelled to Timor-Leste in 2015 and again to Kenya in 2016.

“Notre Dame’s service-learning trips develop our understanding about society. They teach us not to take everything at face value and help us to understand the struggles some cultures and communities have to live with every day,” Symone said.

“They make you question how one sees the world. It really had an impact on me and taught me everything I know now as a teacher. I’ve learnt how to teach children who don’t speak any English and to understand that every child has a background, a history. They don’t come to school with a blank slate. I learnt that every teacher should think of a child holistically.”

Symone also thanked her lecturers at Notre Dame for “inspiring me to want to challenge the education system and make it a place where children think about their future and develop holistically within the classroom”.

Symone’s passion is to continue working with communities to make a difference in children’s lives. “It could be in Kenya, Timor-Leste or even Europe; but I want to inspire children to question what they’ve been told and teach them to aspire to be anything they want to be – regardless of their circumstances.”

Eliza has worked as a child support worker in a specialist domestic violence service for almost two years while completing her studies. She has a deep commitment to gender equality and child protection.

“I believe I carry a sense of empathy that enables me to connect with children within the classroom. With one in three women experiencing violence in the home there is a serious number of vulnerable children that are currently learning in our rural and urban classrooms today. I hope to develop my skills in supporting these children while enlightening fellow educators on the vulnerability that may present itself in the form of behavioural and learning issues,” she said.

“My time at Notre Dame was a fantastic, personal journey that helped me cement my values and philosophies surrounding children’s education and wellbeing in general.

“Travelling with Notre Dame to Kenya, I was further able to solidify my ideas around women’s rights and sexual health as well as wealth distribution and other social justice issues. I have always been fascinated with Africa, its complex history and modern situation, and Notre Dame allowed me to explore it in a really authentic way. I felt I was able to make connections with strong women and children in the community we were in. Connections that will potentially mean I can return and immerse myself in educating young girls and women of their rights to be safe and educated.”

Eliza said she would also like work with Indigenous communities, visiting schools in remote areas and learn alongside Aboriginal people, children and elders to develop her understandings of the complexities surrounding Indigenous health and education.

She is also passionate about food sustainability growing vegetables on the property she leases near Camden providing them to cafes around Sydney.

“I am astonished at the level of disconnection humans and especially children have with their food and where it comes from. I hope one day to work with and alongside the curriculum and its growing emphasis on sustainability; to bring children onto the land I am living on and show them how food is grown, the importance of nutrition, recycling and waste reduction,” Eliza said.

Professor Marguerite Maher, Dean of the School of Education, Sydney, said the awards recognised the outstanding qualities and potential held by Eliza and Symone who would undoubtedly both go on to make a real difference in the profession.


Theresa Kyne: Tel (02) 8204 4141; Mob: 0491 218 852;