About the Summit
Griffith University’s School of Education and Professional Studies is proud to host the annual Creating Futures Summit, shining a spotlight on issues relating to the teaching profession. The 2021 immersive virtual experience focusing on Quality Teaching of Reading in the Early Years.
The Summits are designed to create a platform for the co-creation of shared ideas. Summit participants will have access to high quality content to shape a common vision for quality teacher education.
The 2021 Summit will prompt participants to think about how we might continuously improve the teaching of reading in initial teacher education. The focus is on the place of phonics in a balanced approach to the teaching of reading.
The event is much more than a conference or a talk fest – it is where informed and creative educators and educational stakeholders come together to shape-shift the work in initial teacher education and support beginner teacher experiences, school leadership initiatives and key stakeholder policy decisions . After the summit, we then collectively enact the way forward.
We expect a virtual community of hundreds of participants, inclusive of a range of stakeholders, such as teaching academics from higher education institutions, researchers, school leaders and teachers from all schooling sectors, educators from early childhood education contexts, preservice teachers, representatives from peak educational associations, and community representatives.
Join our team of guest speakers for short TEDx style contributions, interactive conversations, inspiring case studies and workshops.
To maximise your Summit experience, consider creating a distraction-free space where you can focus, engage and still relax. Or come together as a team in a meeting room to discuss the content in the breaks. Please note it is important everyone connects with their own device. For all enquiries, email
*Please note it is a condition of registration to acknowledge the Griffith University Summit is a professional learning and community engagement event. All participants are bound by a code of conduct that requires respectful and courteous interactions that uphold the values and reputation of the profession without discrimination or harassment. So that we can monitor this code of conduct, all registrations must be for one (1) individual, and must use that individual's full name and professional position. Registrations that do not comply will be rejected.
Professor Donna Pendergast
Summit Host, Synthesis & Communique
Professor Donna Pendergast is Dean and Head of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University. She commenced her career as a secondary trained classroom teacher. Her expertise includes student engagement and teacher professional learning. Donna led the team preparing Queensland government schools for the shift of Year 7 into secondary in 2015. She is currently working with the South Australian education sectors to do the same for 2022.
Donna works at state and federal levels in education policy shaping including as: a member of the Board of AITSL; Chair of the Teacher Education Expert Standing Committee of AITSL; Chair of QELi; Chair of the Queensland Council of Deans of Education and Deputy Chair of the Australian Council of Deans of Education.
Donna is the recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Research Supervision Award for Excellence and in 2018 was awarded the Australian Council for Educational Leadership Miller-Grassie Award of Outstanding Leadership in Education.
Donna is thrilled to be hosting the 6th Education Summit.
Master of Ceremonies
Anthony Laye performed in the world's biggest touring magic show ‘The Illusionists’. His ability to react to the moment, energise and connect an audience makes him the perfect candidate to host this year's summit.
Anthony will assist in not only opening up conversations, he will also inspire you to continue the conversations after the summit, taking action to create a better future.
As Australia’s leading Corporate Mentalist, he also has a few tricks up his sleeve he will be sharing throughout the day.
Respecting children’s voices as they learn
Cheryl Vardon is an experienced systems reviewer and actuator of change with a passion for improving outcomes for vulnerable children. She was once the school reviewer for an education centre on Turtle Island in Fiji designing curriculum for local children and providing teacher development.
Cheryl has a wealth of experience in rebuilding and refocussing organisations and teams, together with a sound track record of expertise in the translation of complex policies into useful action.
She is presently the Chief Executive and Principal Commissioner of the Queensland Family and Child Commission, with the remit to build a contemporary children’s commission for Queensland.
As a distinguished educator Cheryl’s background includes representation of Australian governments, companies and organisations both nationally and internationally. Cheryl has held positions as Director-General and Chief Executive of two Australian education systems. Her roles have included many leadership roles as Chief Executive, Commissioner and Adjunct Professor and board and statutory roles.
In 2018 Cheryl received an honorary doctorate from Griffith University. She is a Fellow of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Managers and Leaders.
Professor Beryl Exley
The teaching of reading in initial teacher education
Professor Beryl Exley is an experienced early years and primary school classroom teacher who is now a Professor of English Curriculum and Literacies Education with the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University. She is the Deputy Head of School and teaches into the English Curriculum and Literacies Education courses. In line with the Australian Curriculum: English, she advocates for the balanced approach to teaching reading so that children build their phonics knowledge at the same time as they learn how to use language to make meaning.
Beryl is the Queensland Representative on the Network of Associate Deans of Learning and Teaching in the Discipline of Education (NADLATE). She is an AITSL Initial Teacher Education Program Accreditation Panel Chair. In 2008, Beryl was appointed as a National Literacy and Numeracy Week Literacy Ambassador by the Federal Minister of Education. She has served as the National President of the Australian Literacy Educators' Association (ALEA), a member of ALEA National Council, ALEA National Publications director and the ALEA Queensland State Director. She was the Australian representative and an executive member of the International Development Oceania Committee (IDOC), as well as International Chair of IDOC. She was also a co-chair of the Global Taskforce of the International Literacy Association. In 2019, Beryl was awarded Life Membership to ALEA for services to literacy teaching and teacher education.
Early Learning is Everyone’s Business – Establishing a pattern of success
Myra Geddes oversees Goodstart's social impact strategy, with a focus on public policy, impact measurement, research and social inclusion programs and initiatives. Myra and her team support the delivery of Goodstart’s social purpose and impact across the country. Myra brings significant experience to Goodstart, as a driving force of social policy and reform that has helped transform and improve the quality of life of Australians. She has been the senior social policy advisor to two Australian prime ministers and has worked across early childhood education and care, schools, community services and health policy at state and national levels. Myra’s career began as a teacher in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. She is deeply committed to supporting those working closest to children and is a passionate believer in the power of early learning to transform children’s lives. Myra co-wrote Preschool – Two Years are Better Than One with Dr Stacey Fox at the Mitchell Institute which aimed to help compel Australia to pursue a national commitment to ensuring all three-year-olds have access to high-quality early childhood education by offering a second year of preschool.
Preparation to teach reading: evidence-informed approaches
Sarah Richardson is a passionate education leader with more than 20 years of experience in the sector.
As Director – Teaching and School Leadership with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), Sarah leads the planning and implementation of national policy initiatives and projects that directly support excellence in teaching and school leadership across Australia. In this role, Sarah collaborates with the profession to interpret research and evidence to influence education reform, with a focus on impact at the classroom and national level.
In prior roles as a primary school teacher, principal and school improvement advisor in the UK, Sarah led school improvement activities across a range of settings.
Sarah has a first-class honours degree and an MA in education. She also achieved the UK’s National Professional Qualification for Headship (NQPH).
Dr Melinda Miller
Framing the whole child – A holistic view to oral language for diverse learners
Dr Melinda Miller is the Pedagogy and Practice Manager at G8 Education. Twice-awarded the Springer Publishing Best Paper Award, Melinda is an active researcher and author in the areas of cultural inclusion, sustainability education and pedagogy. After a decade in academia, Melinda now guides approaches to the theory-practice nexus for over 11,000 early childhood educators and teachers in prior-to-school settings. As a former practitioner and academic, Melinda advocates within and beyond the early childhood sector for play-based learning and access and participation rights for all young children and their families. Melinda is looking forward to sharing an early childhood perspective with the Summit audience.
Associate Professor Dr. Misty Adoniou
English is a morphophonemic language - and that should inform the ways we teach children to read and write
Author of the popular book Spelling it Out (Cambridge Uni Press), Associate Professor Dr. Misty Adoniou has had a life long fascination with languages, how they work and how to learn them. She taught children and adults to read and write in English for over 20 years before moving into teacher education. She is currently an Adjunct at the University of Canberra and a Principal Fellow at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.
This year she began learning her 6th language – Arabic – and has been reminded once again what it’s like to learn to read from scratch!
Dr Paul Gardner
Reading the Future: Really, on a raft?
Dr Paul Gardner is the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) Country Ambassador to Australia.
After working as a teacher and academic in England for most of his life, Paul is now a Senior Lecturer in Primary English at Curtin University, Western Australia. Paul often feels a sense of déjà vu as he observes Australia following England down the same rabbit-holes. As a traveller from the future, he suggests it is in Australia’s interests to take a different pathway to that followed by England.
Associate Professor Jessica Mantei
A balanced approach to literacy teaching
Jessica Mantei is an Associate Professor in Language and Literacy at the University of Wollongong and Head of Teaching and Learning in the School of Education. Jessica has worked in literacy education for over 30 years as a classroom teacher, specialist reading teacher, early career teacher mentor and then researcher and lecturer in the tertiary sector. Jessica has a keen interest in the ways our teaching connects with and draws out the richness of our learners’ existing abilities and practices, and in literacy pedagogies that truly equip our learners to get things done within and beyond the institution of school.
…. and that is how the English writing system works!
Julie Shepherd is a classroom based independent educational consultant and Literacy coach. In her role, she works alongside teachers: planning, modelling strategies and acting as mentor and critical friend.
Julie has previously worked as a primary teacher and university lecturer and has also written several teacher reference texts. She has delivered professional learning sessions with teachers across Australia, as well as in Singapore, China and South Korea.
She has a particular interest in Spelling and travelled to France in 2016 to participate in a residential on Orthography with a retired Cambridge professor.
She has had a long involvement in ALEA as a member, local council president, participant at conferences and professional learning events, and is the current Victorian State Director.
Dr Debbie Brosseuk
Teaching the six components of reading through inquiry-based pedagogy
Dr Debbie Brosseuk is a lecturer in the Faculty in Art and Social Sciences with a specialisation in language, literacy and literature at The University of Sydney. Deb’s research interests include children’s literature, text production, multimodality, and teacher pedagogic identity. When they were younger, her (now) teenage boys learned to read by engaging with the entertaining stories, lyrical language, rambunctious rhymes, and wacky illustrations in Dr Suess books. ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ and ‘Wacky Wednesday’ were much-loved favourites! She believes that we must do all that we can to find engaging ways in which reading can breathe life into the literacy of learners.
Doomadgee: an indigenous case study honouring children’s diversity for reading and writing
Emma is Head of Department at Doomadgee State School and has lived in the community for five years. She studied degrees in Primary Teaching and Arts at the University of Newcastle majoring in Aboriginal studies and graduating with distinction. Emma has taught in remote communities in both New South Wales and Queensland and during her time at Doomadgee State school has led projects in Community Engagement, Digital Technologies, Language and Literacy and Mentoring Beginning Teachers. Most recently, she has collaborated with staff and community to develop a new integrated curriculum that is responsive to the needs of the school community and embeds local Aboriginal perspectives and knowledge.
Inclusive education: Every child’s right to read
Mary Neville is the Director of the Reading and Writing Centre for the Queensland Department of Education. She an educator who has worked as a classroom teacher, professional development coordinator, curriculum manager and director in various government roles. Her areas of expertise in education include the teaching of reading and writing in the curriculum (including digital, multimodal literacy) from Prep to Year 12, quality standards –based assessment design and the alignment of assessment and curriculum planning for inclusive whole school, year level and individual classroom contexts. Mary has a gorgeous grandson in kindy whose sense of humour, creativity, curiosity and wonderment are treasured reminders of how precious young children are.
Bridging Literacy - The crossover between early childhood education and care and the early years of schooling
Adele Amorsen is Queensland’s Teacher Program Manager for Goodstart Early Learning where she supports over 400 early childhood teachers with their daily work educating our youngest learners. One of Adele’s passions is working with teachers to ensure best practice for the teaching and learning of literacy skills in the vital early years. Adele’s background is a combination of early childhood teaching, lecturing in early literacies and researching in children’s oral language development. She is passionate about her presentation at the Summit, hoping that it sparks some critical reflection around the purposeful but playful teaching and learning of reading in the early years.
Cook with it, play with it, read with it, sing with it – A balanced approach to phonics
Kristy Cundell is an accomplished Early Years educator and Assistant Principal: Curriculum at MacKillop Catholic Primary School, Mackay. Her philosophy of enjoying and exploring high quality mentor texts to respond to and foster learner engagement is at the core of her Prep approach. Through an integrated and balanced approach, purposeful learning is cultivated within authentic contexts and meaningful talk, ensuing children develop all the repertoires of practice for reading. Kristy has worked across both the State and Catholic sectors for over 20 years and holds additional qualifications in the Arts and Religion. She has taught primary students from Prep to Year 7 and has also worked in Inclusive Curriculum. She is passionate about the foundational year of schooling and committed to ensuring academic progress while enabling each learner to grow in a holistic and faith-filled way. Kristy, a proud mother of 4 (including triplets), understands how important it is to celebrate diversity among children. She values her position in Catholic Education where she daily brings to life her educational philosophy, characterised by a love of learning, a play-based approach, and honouring the individual through personal connections to each story shared.
Building children’s oral language through connections—Kindergarten to prep transition
Steve Kanowski is the Principal of Berrinba East State School which is situation in the culturally diverse, low SES community of Logan Central. Steve has led his school and the local Early Years Neighbourhood Network to embed a consistent approach to developing oral language across both the Early Years and Primary sectors. The reciprocal relationships and the continuity of practice across both sectors saw students demonstrating accelerated growth and higher levels of achievement in all aspects of literacy. This work saw the school awarded as State Winners of the Education Queensland Showcase Award for Excellence in the Early and Primary Years.
Steve is a passionate advocate of the role of outdoor play in early childhood language and emotional development. Steve is excited to engage with like-minded professionals through the summit.
Leading school pedagogical reform: teaching reading in the early years
Jantiena Batt is a school leader in the ACT Education Directorate. She has taught in early childhood settings and schools and is currently working as a policy officer. Jantiena has worked across over 40 schools in the ACT as a literacy and numeracy coach, fulfilling her passion of building confidence and capacity in all teachers. She has an addiction to picture books and challenges anyone who follows Marie Kondo’s belief that 30 books are enough! Jantiena is president of the ALEA ACT Local Council and is proud to be a Senior Fellow of ALEA.
Dr Sue Pillans
Dr Sue Pillans is a marine scientist, artist and children’s author/illustrator who specialises in creative and visual communications. As a graphic recorder Sue draws out discussions, information and ideas to visually capture and convey your stories. Sue also combines her love of marine science and art by bringing creativity into classrooms as her alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish. As a children’s ‘authorstrator’ her children’s picture books also engage, educate and excite children about the wonders of the ocean, making learning and reading visual and fun.
School Leadership Voice
Leesa Warwick has worked as an educator in schools across Logan for over 30 years, as a both teacher and a school leader. Throughout this time, she has also supported school teams throughout South East Queensland in her regional and central office roles to utilise research evidenced strategies for literacy and reading and achieve greater impact on student