Below are some of the most comprehensive evaluations of Tonia Gray’s teaching.
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One of the greatest gifts that Dr Tonia Gray brought to her role of providing me with supervision throughout my PhD candidature was the gift of freedom. In our first meeting Tonia stated clearly that she would walk alongside and sometimes follow, but it was up to me to lead the way in my research adventure. This clarification impacted significantly and positively on my belief that I was up to the task, and underscored the need for me to take responsibility and initiative in providing direction for my study; an exciting and terrifying thought. Tonia’s constant enthusiasm and active support were crucial. Tonia offered me friendship and fostered my self-belief, she facilitated opportunities for me to encounter people and readings that deepened my insight, she provided clarity and grounding during periods of confusion, doubts and overwhelm. Tonia read and edited my drafts carefully, always returned my calls and provided time and accommodation whenever I made my visits to Wollongong. It’s a pleasure to me that our relationship has outlived the length of my candidature and that our friendship continues to develop.
— Dr Val Nicholls, PhD Graduate (2008)
Your class was the most interesting and beneficial that I attended during all my five years at university, not just my Master of Teaching. The skills you taught me have directly transferred to the classroom in how I conduct my lessons … not just how to present the content but also in classroom management, ensuring a calm, friendly and controlled classroom at all times. Techniques such as counting backwards from 5 to 1, looking at my watch and turning the lights on and off along with all the other advice you have given has been invaluable. Thank you so much for everything you have taught me and hopefully more students get the chance to be as inspired by you as I was.
— Marie Jarjo, Masters of Teaching Graduate (2013)
I have been a student of Dr Tonia Gray for a decade. Beginning as an undergraduate student, I am now a PhD candidate and a HPE teacher. As a result of Tonia’s influence on my own professional and personal development, I make a conscious effort to steer away from ‘rescuing’ my students with answers. Instead I focus upon encouraging them to actively seek the answers for themselves and instilling in my students an attitude of resiliency. Tonia’s teaching and learning strategies have helped me develop my own curriculum programs… Through her various publications (in particular her Chapter in Health Moves), Tonia has been a source of knowledge and resources who has enabled me to develop quality teaching and learning experiences for my own senior PDHPE students…. Never before has a teacher had such a lasting and profound impact upon both my professional and personal life.
— Nicole Waden (2006)
… I was most taken by your ability, as an educator, to let your students make mistakes…recognizing that personal growth and achievement would come most meaningfully if the students recognize their decisions as being their own, and having been made for them by someone else. You frequently use the term “life ownership”, and I think your teaching style embodies this philosophy completely. That`s not to say that we were sent into the field without adequate preparation or knowledge; quite the contrary, but then we were expected to put that knowledge into practice once in the field. Another aspect that I really appreciate about your teaching style was how you wanted everyone to feel, at some point, like they wanted to quit or give up. This was so that, in future situations when working with kids, we would be able to understand and empathize with those that didn`t want to continue, and we could draw on our past experiences and feelings to help us connect in those instances. I didn`t realize it at the time, but this fostering of empathy, even if it seems so extreme that we should want to give up, was instrumental in creating greater connections with my group members, as well as having given me greater perspective when working with children even now. … You, as an educator, also seemed quite unconcerned with the perceptions of the class, especially when it came to matters of “fairness” on the hike. With something of this difficulty, there is going to be some complaining and thoughts of unfairness as people hit their own personal walls and seek out others to blame or to put responsibility on. Yet you understand that it is at this point (and I`ve only come to appreciate this recently), where the students hit the wall, that they either achieve the most growth and take on that life ownership, or they seek to blame others and don`t step into what they are capable of. As an educator, you can facilitate, and serve the class with joy and purpose, but ultimately can`t take responsibility for what the participants choose to achieve. I think you manage this balance amazingly well!
— Chad Nicholson, Study Abroad Student (2003)
Your love of the outdoors and your encouragement to continue to push beyond one’s comfort zone has also resonated with me, and I have found I have grown as a person and achieved great things when I have pushed myself that little bit beyond what I thought was possible. Many times I have drawn on your strong belief and encouragement for us to reflect. Whether this be for my own personal sake or installing this practice in my students. It is a practice that I learnt to love because of you. It has helped me with goal setting, as well as with setbacks in life, but most of all it has always made me keep level headed and keep life in perspective.
— Marion Finlay (2002)
Thank you for running what I consider to have been the two most engaging and enjoyable classes that I have undertaken … The content and experiences that you have provided us with have been unique and unforgettable. For better or worse, this year has taught me a lot about myself, an interesting result from the reflective journal assignment which made me focus on emotions and events in a new light – something I would probably not have done on my own accord.
— Wade Nelmes (2006)
Tonia is an outstanding lecture/mentor. Her ability to stimulate interesting and meaningful discussion and her ability to connect subject content with real life situations (which aided understanding) is an admirable skill. Her teaching approach also catered for a variety of learning styles including individual, small group and discussion. I was also fortunate to have Tonia as my Supervising lecture for my honours project. During this time, her willingness to provide assistance, knowledge and continual support was unfailing. Her passion, dedication and motivation were major contributors to my honours success. I praise her and sincerely thank her for this.
— Erin Thompson, First Class Honours Graduate (2008)
The lessons Tonia conducted were often ‘hands on’ where we were actively participating, giving everyone ownership of the content and often the outcomes. We would partake in initiative games, a process where a game or task would be performed to challenge the students into working as a team to complete the designated task. … This teaching style and the way in which Tonia conducted herself in each lesson has had a great impact on my lessons as a teacher now. I often use initiative games to challenge my students into working as a team, developing communication skills and individual reflection. I aim to have students leaving a lesson challenged, educated and eager for more – the same feeling I had after Tonia’s lessons. Although the initiative games were the fun parts, it was Tonia’s ability to debrief and engage students in reflection of the tasks and self-analysis that amazed me the most. With a few words she had us all questioning our roles in the game and how that role can often reflect the individual we are in everyday life.
— Shane Lockhart (2005)
I first met Tonia in 2012 when I was a student in her Introduction to Teaching class as part of the Master of Teaching (Secondary) program. Tonia’s passion for teaching and genuine care for her students is immediately apparent. Her lessons were always well planned, well timed, well structured and carried out with the highest levels of professionalism. Tonia takes time to learn about her students and shows a genuine concern to see them succeed. During my time in her class I valued her insights, anecdotes and vast knowledge of the principles of pedagogy. Tonia is a fantastic teacher and a wonderful role model for students considering a career in education.
— Dr. Benjamin Jones, Graduate UWS Master of Teaching (2012)