Teacher Spotlight: Isla McKnight

20/03/20234 minute read
Teacher Spotlight: Isla McKnight

Introducing Isla, a highly educated individual with a strong background in geography and teaching. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major in Geography, from Otago University in Dunedin. Isla further advanced her education by completing a Masters of Teaching and Learning at Massey University. With her newfound knowledge and skills, she taught for two years at a large state school in Auckland. Afterwards, she pursued new opportunities and took a teaching position in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she worked as a relief teacher for a year.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

Why I joined CGA

I had been teaching overseas during Covid-19 which meant a lot of it was done online. It was here I started to learn the true capacities of the internet and how we can get creative with the way we deliver our curriculum to the students. Once I saw the Geography position at CGA, I was excited at the prospect of being able to continue online teaching. The Geography course offered at CGA was also something I was definitely keen to be a part of because it covers a vast range of topics both Natural and Cultural.

Q & A with  Ms Isla

Q: What is your philosophy or approach to education?

A: I am driven by my passion for Geography. I want students to learn about our crazy world, how we can sustain it and how we can enjoy it - all while having some fun in the classroom!

Q: What is your classroom routine and how engaged are students?

A: I will always have a chat with the students as they dial into class - there is always something exciting going on in someone's part of the world! The lesson outline will be shared on the screen and we will chat through the Curriculum Objective for the day. I will then recap in some capacity the previous lesson to ensure there is content retention prior to moving on. There is usually group work involved in most lessons working on a task and then returning to the main room to share answers. Because our classes are smaller in size, I have found students are keen to put their hands up or jump into breakout rooms with their peers. They get to know each other fairly quickly and form some great friendships.

Q: What are the main differences between CGA and a brick-and-mortar school and what are some of the benefits to students learning online?

A: The different platforms make it really easy to engage directly with students and their work. You can be working on something together in a breakout room or get the whole class involved in the main room. There is a greater level of interaction among the students. I can share/edit pages in real-time with students and vice versa. Particularly in Geography, there are areas where you can take advantage of being a remote teacher and show them real-life case studies that we have on our doorstep - A tour around a Dairy Farm being one of them! Students' work is monitored regularly and as teachers, we are able to provide instant feedback. The apps that CGA use allows students to stay organised with their notes/homework - things are always simple to find and keep track of.

Another noteworthy difference is that we have more productive time in class. Students jump on ready to engage with the lesson straight away - there are no distractions for them and they can dive into the day's lesson. I have also changed the way I design lessons: At CGA I am able to take advantage of the tools readily available online and incorporate them into the lesson using different interactive maps/diagrams.

Q: What is your most memorable moment at CGA?

A: Seeing the CGA Team place 3rd at the Ethics Olympics. This was the first year that CGA entered a team. Di Austin and I met with the students over the course of a few terms in preparation for the international competition. The students did a fantastic job and came home with a bronze medal - a very proud moment indeed.

Q: Do you have any advice for your students? Is there something you wish you knew when you were at that age?

A: I know it’s easier said than done but don't put pressure on yourself trying to figure out exactly what you want to do. As long as you find something you are passionate about - and do that, the rest will fall into place. Being happy in what you do is the most important thing.

Top Tip for Exam Preparation

Submit practice essays - this way you can get an indication of where you are at,  prior to the exam. That and eat some dark chocolate.

In my free time…

I love camping! I recently purchased a rooftop tent so I am often away during the weekends - I am yet to teach a class from there! I also love hiking, there are some beautiful walks around New Zealand that I am slowly trying to tick off. I just recently completed the Stewart Island walk with my two older sisters and was lucky enough to spot a Kiwi in the wild!

Screenshot 2023 03 20 At 15 35 22