Celebrated maths teacher and Southern Cross University alumnus Holly Millican has been named the Rising Star of the Year at the prestigious Australian Education Awards.
The annual Australian Education Awards is a leading independent event for the primary and high school education sector, showcasing top-performing schools, principals, department heads and teachers for outstanding achievements and transformative work.
Ms Millican was awarded the top honour in a virtual ceremony, after being named an excellence awardee in the hotly contested category alongside 10 other finalists from the private and public school sectors across the country.
Ms Millican studied education at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus, graduating in 2018 and landing a permanent position at South Grafton High School in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.
She soon made her mark in the mathematics department at the regional school, introducing innovative teaching methods to ‘make maths fun’ – with games, team-based learning and interactive techniques – all while studying her Master of Education in student wellbeing and school leadership online through Southern Cross.
Her mathematics enrichment tutoring program was aimed at students who struggle with basic mathematical concepts, by providing them with types of mathematics that are regionally relevant and can be used in real life outside of school. She started with two students, before the program expanded to five teachers and nearly thirty students in the space of two terms.
In 2019 Ms Millican received international attention when she received a Learning Edge Teaching Practice Award at Google HQ in Sydney. The award was a joint initiative between NSW Department of Education and Teachers Mutual Bank in partnership with international giants YouTube and Google, and included workshops with famous maths youtuber Eddie Woo.
Later that year she was named Young Alumnus of the Year at Southern Cross University’s inaugural Impact Awards, for her innovative mathematics teaching methods that engage 21st century learners.
In 2020 she took out the Teachers Guild of NSW early career award for the Secondary School Division, which celebrates the amazing, talented, innovative, progressive and essential work of educators to ensure Australian students receive the best education.
Professionally, Ms Millican is part of an invitation-only Targeted Head Teacher Learning Program within the NSW Department of Teaching.
Despite the disruptions of the past year, Ms Millican has kept student engagement high in the classroom and during home learning, introducing mathematical escape rooms and mathematical murder mysteries in both settings.
Ms Millican said she was honoured and excited to accept the Australian Education Rising Star of the Year Award for 2021. She congratulated the other finalists on their amazing contributions to Australian education, and thanked the event organisers and her colleagues.
“I would not be able to do all of the things that I do without the amazing teachers I work with in my faculty at South Grafton High School,” Ms Milllican said.
“Their constant support and encouragement have enabled me to implement all the changes I’ve made at my school, that are transforming the way we teach maths to make it fun and exciting and engaging, and get the kids excited to learn.
“Winning this award is an absolute privilege and I cannot wait to continue my work with changing the way we teach mathematics.”