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Guest Speakers 

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Dr Melinda Webber

Dr Melinda Webber is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Melinda is a former Fulbright/Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga Indigenous Scholar who has published widely on the nature of ethnic identity development, examining the ways race, ethnicity, culture and identity impact the lives of young people ­ particularly gifted Māori students. In 2016, Melinda was awarded an esteemed 3-year Marsden Fast-Start grant to undertake a research project examining the gifted identity traits of Ngāpuhi, New Zealand’s largest iwi. In 2017, Melinda was awarded a prestigious 5-year Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to tackle an important question facing educators – ‘How can we foster cultural pride and academic aspiration among Māori students?’


Dr Jared Cooney Horvath

Dr Jared Cooney Horvath (PhD, MEd) is a neuroscientist, educator, and author of the new book 10 Things Schools Get Wrong (And How We Can Get Them Right).  He has conducted research and lectured at Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, the University of Melbourne, and over 250 schools internationally.  He currently serves as Director of LME Global: a team dedicated to bringing the latest brain and behavioural research to teachers, students, and parents alike.

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Dr Jonathan Mascorella

As a qualified Chef, Jonathon realised a passion for teaching as the opportunity came for training apprentices. Moving into schools saw this develop at Southern Cross Vocational College, where his teaching evolved and started to take on an eLearning support role. Some years later, the opportunity arose to take on a role at Loreto Kirribilli teaching Design and Technology, launching a course in STEM and following a passion for robotics and eLearning. Since then, Jonathon has solidified a strong foundation in STEM at Loreto Kirribilli in a number of fields, including Nationals-level robotics teams, entrepreneurial startups and an elective course. Currently leading innovation and eLearning at Loreto, he is continually refining the opportunities for young women to embark on a STEM journey and helping staff integrate technology. Jonathon holds a PhD in educational policy implementation and is continuing research in STEM, trauma-informed education, professional learning and philosophy.

Kathryn Taylor

Kathryn presents with a background in secondary education and is currently Executive Director and Lead for Education with Wellbeing Australia, expert in Education and Wellbeing for ACPi and Director of Turning Point Consulting, a Centre of Excellence: Leadership, Change & Wellbeing. Over the past 20 years, Kathryn has worked in human resources, leadership and coaching within education and corporate settings and currently works across K-12 in Department, Catholic and Independent schools with leadership, staff, students and community, embedding positive professional development encompassing personal evaluation, planning and transition, enabling individuals in developing resilience, empowerment, motivation and engagement. Kathryn has received recognition or her work in educational leadership with a focus on transition for staff and students. These awards include an Honorary Fellowship from the Teachers Guild of NSW and a Career Management Fellowship from ICCI in respect for her global work.

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Dr Rosalind Walsh

Rosalind Walsh was the Manager of the Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information (GERRIC) at UNSW for 10 years. She completed a PhD examining gifted children's responses to higher order questioning at Macquarie University and was awarded the Vice Chancellor's Award for Research Excellence, as well as the Australasian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented's annual award for best thesis. She has been a classroom teacher, an English language teacher, established a program for gifted students in a public primary school where she also taught extension mathematics classes. In 2018 she consulted on the development of the NSW Policy for the Education of Gifted Children. She is currently the co-ordinator of gifted students (K-12) at an independent girls' school

Cate Stilwell

Cate has been a passionate advocate for high potential, gifted and highly gifted students since becoming involved with the New South Wales Association for Gifted & Talented Students in 1992. She was their first paid employee and worked with them as parent counsellor, administrator and event organiser until retraining and beginning work as a teacher in 2001. Over a 20 year career in teaching, Cate led gifted and talented committees and provided professional development for staff while teaching extension classes and finally, nine years as Opportunity Class teacher at Greenacre Public School. She has recently worked with the Department of Education’s High Potential and Gifted Team, assisting with implementation of the 2021 High Potential and Gifted Education Policy. Cate is committed to quality, appropriate differentiation adjustments and understands that higher levels of giftedness require a greater level of adjustment to the core curriculum.

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Bohdan Balla-Gow

Bohdan has been involved and held leading roles in high potential and gifted education for 17 years as a Deputy Principal, Head Teacher and Teacher in comprehensive, partially selective and fully selective high schools across Sydney. Since November 2017 Bohdan has been a leading member of the high potential and gifted education team in the DoE where he has co-led the development of the high potential and gifted education policy, implementation advice for schools and professional learning for schools across the state. Bohdan is passionate about finding a balance between excellence and equity in public schooling in NSW and is committed to leading the implementation of the new policy across the state to benefit all students, including high potential and gifted students. Bohdan has 4 postgraduate degrees, including MEd (gifted education – postgraduate academic excellence award) and COGE (with high distinction). Bohdan is a current doctoral student at the University of New South Wales developing a thesis around his work in leading the state-wide implementation of the HPGE Policy.

Marek Brewster

A secondary mathematics teacher by trade, Marek has taught in public comprehensive schools for the better part of the last decade. He has held a variety of middle management roles with a specific focus on developing and implementing school-wide programs to support high potential and gifted students. As a result of the regional and national success of these programs, Marek was recognised as a Woolf Fisher Fellow for Excellence in Teaching in 2019. Since July 2019, Marek has worked with the Department’s High Potential and Gifted Education team as a Project Officer (7-12) to support the development and delivery of professional learning for the HPGE Policy. In alignment with this role, Marek is also currently pursuing his doctoral studies through the University of Wollongong in the area of gifted education. His specific research focus is on evaluating the efficacy of a pilot model approach (the ‘Early Adopter Schools’ project) in the implementation of gifted education policy.

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Helen Dudneney

Helen is a private consultant who has been actively involved in working with gifted children, their parents and teachers since 1990. During this time she has designed and run enrichment and social skills workshops and residential camps for 3 –16 year old gifted children and their families. She has designed and conducted seminars, workshops and in-service training for parents and teachers about understanding and meeting the needs of gifted children and young people. Her consultancy specialises not only in gifted children, but also twice exceptional students including those who are visual spatial learners. Helen has lectured in Gifted Education at Murdoch University and Australian Catholic University – Strathfield. She has also been delivering teacher professional learning sessions in preschools, primary and high schools thought out Australia for the past 25 years. Since 2015 Helen has been an Accredited TQI provider with TQI in the ACT and NESA in NSW.

Dr Suzanne Vaskilevska

Sue is passionate about supporting high potential and gifted students, their families and teachers. Her previous roles include NSW State Gifted and Talented Advisor, deputy at 3 high schools including a selective HS and member of the HPGE team . Sue’s doctorate focussed on why students from minority programs were under - represented in State Gifted programs. Sue is a Gifted NSW committee member and is currently a teacher  and learning advisor at Educational Standards.

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Janine Timillero

Janine Timillero holds the position of Diverse Learning Coordinator at St Patrick’s College, Strathfield. Janine has been working in Gifted Education for over fifteen years and she is also the President of the Gifted and Talented Secondary Teachers Association (GATSTA). She teaches an elective Philosophy course in Stage 5 and a Board Approved Course in Year 11. Janine is a qualified Level 2 Teacher Educator in applying philosophical thinking in the classroom. She has presented at several workshops and conferences in the areas of Gifted Education and Philosophical Thinking. Janine is passionate about the use of philosophical thinking for all students. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Education, Certificate of Gifted Education and a Master of Education and she is currently studying a Graduate Certificate in Arts majoring in Philosophy.

Jennifer Edwards

Jennifer Edwards currently works for Sydney Catholic Schools as an Education Officer: Gifted Education. She has been working in education for over 30 years with extensive K-12 experience in Gifted Education across all Key Learning Areas. Prior to this she was involved in petrochemical research. Jennifer is Vice President of the Gifted and Talented Secondary Teachers Association (GATSTA), which she helped establish in 2007 and a qualified Level 2 Teacher Educator in applying philosophical thinking in the classroom. A focal point of her engagement with educators is capacity building to enhance student learning outcomes. She strives to foster critical and creative thinking alongside academic excellence benefitting the learner and educator. To achieve this, Jennifer works collaboratively with fellow educators in the development and provision of programs and resources. She also supports the implementation, review and evaluation of gifted programs, and presents at professional learning workshops and conferences. Jennifer holds a BSc, COGE and MEd. She is currently completing studies in Psychology.

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Carolyn O'Brien

Carolyn O’Brien is the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program Facilitator and CAPA Leader of Learning at Marist Catholic College North Shore. In 2017 she initiated the Newman Program with a focus on utilising data and professional learning for all teachers for the appropriate provision for gifted students. To support the implementation of current pedagogical practice for gifted students’ academic and social and emotional needs, Carolyn completed the Master of Education in Gifted Education at UNSW in 2020. 

Helen Baber

Helen Baber is a highly experienced teacher, leader and Gifted Education specialist. She has been passionately working in Gifted Education for two decades and is currently an educational consultant at Bright and Beyond Education Resources. Helen has worked across K-12 in the ACT, NSW and New Zealand, and most recently held the position of Director of Gifted Education at St Philip’s Christian College, Newcastle. As a parent of gifted children, Helen worked closely with the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children (NZAGC) in the role of Council Member, and was the inaugural President of Wellington Explorers, a sub-branch of the NZAGC. She also enjoys a wonderful relationship supporting NSW Gifted and presenting at Australian Gifted Support camps. Helen holds a PGDipEd (Gifted and Talented) from Massey University, New Zealand, and a MEd (Gifted Education) with Excellence from the UNSW. Her career highlight has been mentoring teachers to increase their understanding of the holistic needs of gifted students and building teachers’ capabilities to differentiate.

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