Elena Finlay firmly believes that “Reading is everywhere. Reading is everybody’s business.” This echoes through weekly assemblies at Leichhardt State School, where she tirelessly works with colleagues to improve students’ literacy outcomes. Teaching for 22 years, Elena has been a member of the school’s leadership team for four years and is now Deputy Principal - Teaching and Learning. She has led the development of the school’s reading framework using the latest research and evidence-based practices.
Her passion for reading comes from her strong interest in audiology, which she studied in her Masters degree and has been recognised with awards. Elena said she felt great compassion for students and their families who had reading difficulties, and, with her literacy background in speech pathology, she knew she had something to offer. She entered the world of education to make a difference on a bigger scale. She says the best thing about teaching is the ability to have such a positive impact on students' lives not only now, but in the future.
Under her literacy leadership, her school’s English achievement data has significantly improved across all year levels. She helps upskill colleagues and inspires them to enhance their practice. She has prioritised working with students requiring intensive literacy interventions, to close the gap in reading data and ensure senior students are high school ready. In collaboration with the school’s Indigenous Community Coordinator, Elena has worked to obtain grants for traditional owners to teach the area’s traditional Yugara language to Years 5 and 6 students.
Elena helps transition kindergarten children to the school by organising weekly videos featuring stories read aloud by school teachers. The young learners are given the opportunity to connect with their future teachers before they arrive and has resulted in increased prep enrolments for 2024. She has also established a program where Year 5 students visit a local centre to read aloud to the kindergarteners.
In her nomination, colleagues wrote: “Elena supports others on their own learning journey and strives to ensure they set specific and achievable goals for themselves and their students.”
“She demonstrates a great deal of self-awareness, independence and respect for our profession.”