It’s a title he never sought, but 34 years of inspiring high school teaching saw Stephen Duclos become one of only 22 teachers in NSW to receive a 2013 Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching on August 27.
The Blaxland resident is in his 13th year at Penrith Selective High School where he is head teacher of social sciences and co-ordinator of the student representative council.
He also volunteers as events co-ordinator for the Australian Schoolboys Rugby League, which has taken him all over Australia and on tours of New Zealand and Britain.
The school’s principal John Elton nominated Mr Duclos for the award and called him a deserving winner, whose “contribution and influence goes way beyond Penrith High.”
“Mr Duclos is a wonderful ambassador for teaching and and he is very innovative in the classroom.
“He understands how kids learn and is very engaging,” Mr Elton said.
“Kids always want to be in his classes.”
Mr Duclos said he’d always wanted to become a teacher, going right back to his own high school days.
“I was inspired by my year 11 English teacher at Windsor High, Christine Needham, who I could see was making a difference in people’s lives and it was something I wanted to do,” he said.
“When I was growing up I moved a lot and went to five different schools so I appreciated the importance of school, applied myself and enjoyed it, so I think that also had an affect (on my career choice).
“I’ve always taught in western Sydney schools, starting out at Shalvey High about 34 years ago when there were 1600 students and dozens of demountable classrooms.
“I seem to still, at my age, be able to relate to the students and make a difference and you get to see that difference both in what past students have ended up doing and also in the leadership positions and extra responsibilities current students take at the school.”
Mr Duclos said relating to students is all about pitching what you are doing at their level, which is very different for Year 7s to Year 12s.
“It’s about trying to make as much as I do relevant for them — whether it be in geography or economics — to show them how what they are learning can make a difference.
“Technology has certainly changed from the days of having a chalk board to having a smart board, moving from giving my Year 10s a straight essay task to an annotated photographic essay (created on a computer).
“But the most important success factor is still the teacher-student relationship.”
Mr Duclos said he was “a bit humbled” about receiving the award and would miss teaching when he retired in three years.
“You just do your job because you enjoy it and want to make a difference and I have been able to do that.
“I’ve worked with some fantastic teachers along the way and that keeps you going too.”