Teacher • Educator • Lecturer • Coach • Author
As a teacher I know the pressure, demands and wonderful moments we all experience.
Teachers across Australia have labelled me the ‘Keep-it-real Teacher’ because I am passionate, energetic, inspiring, funny and most importantly realistic (who has time for anything else?)
- A Masters in Education (Leadership) from Western Sydney University
- A Bachelor of Education from the University of Wollongong
- A Certificate in Rudolf Steiner Education from Parsifal College
- Is a certified Life Coach and NLP Practitioner
- Is a member of the International Coach Federation
- Is a member of the International Positive Psychology Association,
- Is a licensed Mental Toughness user
- Has been a Senior Associate for the Positivity Institute with Dr Suzy Green
- Has lectured for 10 years at Western Sydney University in Educational Psychology, Pedagogy and Wellbeing
- In 2014 Daniela was placed in the top 3 for “Lecturer of the Year” as rated by students for her engaging style
- Has lectured at Sydney University, Macquarie University and ACPE
- Was NSW Senior Manager for Outdoor Education Group (OEG)
- Was program writer for ReachOut.com
- Was program developer for International College Wellness Coaches
- Was a classroom teacher, Head Teacher, Year Adviser, Event Manager, Sports Organiser, Beginning Teacher Mentor, Curriculum writer and many other roles that happen in schools
The Real Story
Having taught across many sectors in education for 25 years, I know all too well the stress, frustrations and struggles teachers face. Growing up in South-West Sydney, I started my career with the NSW Department of Education in the same area. As a young Physical Education and Health teacher, I was excited, passionate and ready to change the world.
As a first-year teacher, not only did I have to find my way in teaching and classroom management, the tradition was that I would be given the role of organising whole school sport as well. This involved organising sport for over 900 students and 70 staff weekly by reading draws, allocating teams between busses, as well as informing staff of their venues, not to mention appeasing them to ensure they were allocated a sport of their preference. This coupled with having to chase up students resulted in high pressure and high stress. It really was a matter of sink or swim, and for the privilege, I received no extra income and no thanks, but was gifted a one-period allocation of 50 minutes a week.
After doing this for 2 years, the next beginning teacher arrived and I was pleased to hand over the reins. During this time, while I did the best I could with the resources I had (both internal and external), I struggled. When looking back now, I cringe at the manner in which my induction as a new teacher occurred as well as being disappointed in how I handled the stress. I put a lot of pressure on myself to ‘get-it-right’ and would often punish myself by working longer and harder if things went wrong. Each day I would wake up with sheer determination to give more and do more only to be completely exhausted. To my colleagues I was a high functioning ‘go-getter’ but most days I wanted to curl up in a corner and cry.
I decided that all the pressure and stress was because of “the school”. The simple answer was change schools, so I did. I put in for a transfer and was fortunate enough to get it…. another government school in South-West Sydney, but in my head, this one would be much better.
This school may have had different faces but it had the same pressure, same demands and same expectations. I had now been a government high school teacher in NSW for ten years. I still loved my job, loved the students, was passionate about catering to everyone’s needs, was creative in program development and worked long hours. But I had also become “that” teacher. The one that rolls their eyes at every new initiative, complained about every new decision and argued at the ridiculous levels of admin required to do something simple. Yes, I was now the cliche jaded government teacher.
There had to be another way….. I was spending 80% on things that I didn’t care about, but ‘had’ to do, and only 20% of my energy on things I actually cared about such as the students.
I have always had a love of learning and have been a seeker of knowledge, wisdom and universal truths for as long as I can remember. This was perhaps driven by my need to understand the dynamics of my highly dysfunctional family and upbringing, not to mention get out of there as quickly as possible. I left home when I was sixteen, worked three jobs to put myself through university and learned very quickly to be independent, solution-focussed and work with the resources you have. This story for another day, however, the point is, I embarked on a quest to find a better way of doing things, an alternate way and a holistic system.
I went to an introductory session on Rudolf Steiner education and fell in love instantly. I enrolled in their inaugural 3-year Diploma in Steiner Education for existing teachers. Whilst working full time, still with NSW DEC, I spent the next three years (one night a week and every school holidays) learning news skills, pedagogical tools and new ways of thinking and being. This was the answer I had been looking for.
There is only one k-12 Steiner school in Sydney but I was fortunate enough to get a job at that school. I was now leaving the security of my government job to enter the Independent system. My friends thought I was mad, and may even be joining some cult.
I was so excited to be entering a system where the philosophy spoke to my heart, students were at the centre of the school, where wellbeing was the priority and community belonging was foundational. I thought this school would be the answer.
Well….. I am a big advocate of Steiner education, its philosophy and its pedagogy, however, schools are schools and people are people. There were some students who I loved and adored and would go above and beyond to meet their needs. There were other students were I imagined driving in the school gate and accidentally nudging them with my car (to knock some sense into them). I didn’t of course, but I may have come close a few times. Then there were the parents who some of which I had true partnerships with, yet others would open their mouth and I would think to myself “Hmmm, that’s why?” Then, of course, there were the teachers. Some of these teachers are my best friends to this day, and others I hoped choked on their lunch, terrible I know. The point is no one school had the magic answer that I was looking for.
Adding to this was the fact that I was the only Physical Education teacher in a school of 300 students. If a teacher was low in their teaching load, they were given PE. I wrote the entire curriculum, managed assessment and reporting, went to all parent evening-meetings (that happened three times a week, depending on the year group), managed sport, organised carnivals, outdoor education, was a mentor to beginning teaches and a year adviser….. I was married to the job 16hrs a day. I did this for four years.
I had now been teaching full time for nearly 15 years and I was exhausted. My relationships failed, my health suffered, I was cranky, irritable, edgy and pig-headed. In the midst of this and my many personal, yet private breakdowns, I booked myself into therapy, realising I needed help in learning how to better restore and manage my social and emotional resources. My personal development journey was about to get ramped up.
In teacher education, I never got taught social and emotional skills. I got taught how to plan, write curriculum, assess, report and teach wellbeing to students but never learned the skills of positive reflection or self-awareness to better regulate my own emotions. Through my own self-learning, I began to focus on the areas of my life I could control, I learned to communicate better and most importantly, I learned how to be kinder to myself. The greatest gift I have been able to give myself is being able to listen to my body, manage my mind better and engage with my feelings in a healthy way. It wasn’t about removing the stress and pressure in my life as a teacher, it was about learning the social and emotional skills need to better manage the ups and downs.
I realised that instead of looking to the school system and its people for me to feel supported and appreciated, I needed to look at the one constant in all these scenarios – me!
Through this realisation, I decided I needed a break. A real break and a long break. A break from teaching, schools, students, parents and other teachers. So, I made the very difficult decision to leave teaching altogether. I hated leaving my students, I had no plans for what I was going to do or where I was going. I just knew I had to leave. I had to restore my sense of self, restore my mind and body, and renew my passion for teaching that was very bruised.
I decided to go to Europe, to any country where I didn’t speak the language and they didn’t speak English because I didn’t want to talk to people any more. I just wanted to point at signs and take photos. I loved it. For 6 months I played with curiosity, embarked on new adventures and opened my mind to possibility.
Coming home, I knew I still wasn’t ready for going back into teaching full time but I needed a job. I was fortunate enough to be offered the role of the NSW Senior Manager for a national Outdoor Education company. It was perfect, I would liaise with the top private school in NSW and VIC to plan curriculum, conduct staff training and manage logistics and budgets, all the skills I had learned as a teacher came together in this role.
The more time I spent in schools, the more I realised I missed it. I didn’t miss the poor behaviour of students, whinging parents and disengaged staff, but I loved teaching and I loved being able to make a real difference with people. The more I listened to teachers and school leaders, the more I realised the issues and pressures on teachers were similar, if not the same, regardless of the education system, social standing, denomination or size. Of course, there were some differences but the majority of issues around work-practices, crowded curriculum and expectations, was the same.
From as long as I can remember, I have never stopped learning. To this day I have spent thousands of hours listening, watching and talking to experts. Learning with books, online courses, diplomas, degrees and conferences. From psychology to esoterics, religion to Jung, mindfulness to ecotherapy and transpersonal coaching to Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I was learning so much on my journey (that still continues today), and my drive to share and teach these skills was growing.
Whilst attending yet another conference, I picked up some brochures on Life Coaching. I was intrigued so I went along to some workshops. I was fascinated at the power of linguistics. I loved how questions directed a persons focus and how the simple shift in perspective had mind-blowing implications. Why had no-one shared these simple yet practical tools with me as an educator? Why aren’t all teachers learning how to give high-quality feedback in strategic ways that empower others? Imagine if teachers were taught to reflect on their own practice in a positive way to counter the self-critic? How simple and effective these tools were.
Two years later and I was a certified Life Coach. Ten years on and four more coaching certifications, and I am registered with the International Coaching Federation.
I had to find a way to share these amazing resources with teachers.
As I continued to learn and grow in life and work, I left the outdoor education company to start my own business of developing resources that would support the social and emotional development of teachers and students. I was pretty naive thinking it was as simple as writing resources and then selling it – Ha!
Everything in education is based on evidence (and rightly so), so I found a way to be where the evidence is collated and stored, universities. I became a lecturer at several universities working with pre-service teachers. I have taught many subjects within Sydney University, Macquarie University and ACPE, but the majority of my work has been with Western Sydney University. I also embarked on my own study to grow my research skills and knowledge with a Masters in Education Leadership.
This led me to the field of Positive Psychology. I finally had a platform to share my insights and the evidence to tie together a lot of the strategies that I was learning on my journey.
I wish someone taught me sooner about the relationship between my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I wish I knew how to better listen and manage my own inner critic and self-expectations. I wish I knew how to let go of control every now and then, how to ask for help, and how to express and show my emotions in healthy ways. I wish I had the skills to navigate stress better, the skills to communicate more effectively and the skills to connect in healthy ways with others.
I now dedicate my time and energy to help teachers across the world realise they are amazing, they are doing an incredible job, and they deserve to prioritise their wellbeing just as much as that of others.
My mission comes from my personal and professional journey.
My vision comes from my commitment to helping teachers realise there is another way.