Danni Mattiazzo: Implementing Real-World Learning Through STEAM Initiatives

Danni Mattiazzo
Danni Mattiazzo

Future-Ready Education!

The education sector plays a crucial role in shaping future generations, emphasizing the need for innovative teaching methods and comprehensive curricula. The industry continually evolves to incorporate innovative teaching techniques and advanced technologies, ensuring that students are well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the modern era. Emphasizing holistic development, education professionals strive to create environments that cultivate academic and personal growth, recognizing the importance of nurturing well-rounded individuals.

Danni Mattiazzo, currently serving as an Assistant Principal, exemplifies the dedication and passion essential in the education field. With a career that began in early childhood development, Danni has progressed through various roles, gaining extensive experience across different grade levels. Her journey reflects a deep commitment to enhancing student outcomes and developing positive relationships within the school community. As the Head of Curriculum and Assessment and STEAM Coordinator, she collaborates with teachers to develop and implement innovative programs that align with contemporary educational standards.

Larrakeyah Primary School, where Danni applies her expertise, stands out for its progressive approach to education. The school offers programs such as QUEST and ASPIRE, which extend learning beyond traditional classroom settings through partnerships with industry professionals. Larrakeyah Primary emphasizes real-world problem-solving and community engagement, organizing events like Whole School STEAM Days to enrich the student experience. The school’s clear pedagogical frameworks and supportive community environment are key factors in its success, ensuring that every student can shine and achieve their full potential.

Let’s explore Danni’s journey to becoming a remarkable educator:

Balancing Professional Life and Motherhood

Danni cherishes spending time with her family. She is a proud mother of two children whom she adores, and she is supported by a very understanding husband. They enjoy accompanying their children to their sporting commitments and being supportive parents. Danni always ensures that weekends are reserved for family time.

She acknowledges that her profession demands a lot of energy, and at times, balancing it all can be quite challenging. She believes that children are only young for a short time, and it’s crucial not to miss out on these precious moments. She recalls a working mother once advising her that one cannot be 100% at everything and that one must learn to choose when to give their all.

There are times when one needs to be fully committed to work, and at other times, one needs to be fully present as a mother. Weekends and holidays are when Danni invests time in her family, and she is 100% a mother, a role she cherishes more than anything else.

Preparing Students for the Future

Danni always knew she was destined to be a teacher. She began her career in early childhood development and ascended to the position of assistant manager at a childcare center, all while pursuing a full-time Bachelor of Education. This foundational experience has been instrumental in her current role as a Assistant Principal at Larrakeyah Primary School.

With over a decade of experience in the primary school system, she has worked across all year levels, from Transition to Year 6, developing extensive knowledge of all learning areas. Currently, she serves as the Head of Curriculum and Assessment and STEAM Coordinator, collaborating with teachers to develop innovative programs that align with the Australian and Cambridge Curriculum.

Danni possesses an open and inquiring mind, viewing change as an opportunity to enhance student outcomes. Her areas of interest include fostering positive relationships with students and their families, supporting parents as first teachers, organizing whole school events that unite the entire school community, Visible Learning and STEAM, and embracing 21st-century learning. Her primary motivation stems from the rapidly changing world and the need to adequately prepare students for their future.

Ensuring Success in Education

Under the guidance of a visionary principal, Danni, and her team continue to explore and initiate programs that engage students and enable them to reach their full potential. The programs they offer, such as QUEST and ASPIRE, take students beyond the traditional four walls of a classroom and allow them to learn in a unique way through partnerships with industry professionals.

Whole-school STEAM Days are organized to enable students to solve real-world problems using the Design Thinking Model. They strive to connect with community organizations these days, believing that students will empathize more with the problem and be more inclined to want to solve it.

The opportunity to travel for conferences and visit schools excelling in areas of interest has allowed them to refine what they learn and apply it within their own school context. Recently, Danni attended a conference on AI in education, which sparked ideas that she now plans to present to the leadership and hopefully implement within the school.

They have very clear pedagogical frameworks and policies that outline the expectations of the school, which helps keep everyone moving in the same direction. Another significant factor in their success is the community they are part of. The teachers, leadership, and families of their school community work together in the best interests of the students at the center.

They cater to every single child and have programs that give them an opportunity to shine. From PE Specialists to Whole School Productions, their school ensures that there is a program suited to everyone.

From Classrooms to Conferences

Being shortlisted as one of the top 50 for the Dedicated Teachers Awards in 2020 was an honor for Danni. In 2013, she was fortunate to be awarded the Early Childhood Teacher of the Year for the Darwin Region. In 2021, she was awarded the Northern Territory Leader in Education of the Year for the Darwin region and has been shortlisted for Head of Department in the 2022, 2023, and 2024 Australian Education Awards.

Presenting at the EDUTech Asia Virtual Conference in 2020 and again at the 2023 EduTech Asia Conference in person has been another highlight of her career. The opportunity to visit international schools, where ideas were planted and then implemented, was also a significant experience.

Being appointed to the role of Head of Curriculum and Assessment has allowed her to explore pedagogy while motivating teachers to embrace and implement it with confidence and technique. Her core values are to lead by example, living by the quote, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you’re a leader.’

While all the accolades are appreciated, the most memorable achievement for her is when a past student comes back and visits, sharing their achievements. It brings to light the reality that she has been involved in their educational journey. She particularly recalls one student who returned on the final day of Year 12. He returned because, on his last day in her class, he had said she was his favorite teacher, and she had responded that he hadn’t had them all yet, so he couldn’t say that.

He came back to tell her that he had been through all of school, and she still topped them all. This really highlighted the importance a teacher has in a student’s life. She has never been a teacher who just forgets a past cohort; every child she has ever taught has shaped who she is today as a teacher.

Creating a Sense of Belonging

The programs at Larrakeyah Primary School foster holistic student development by offering diverse opportunities for their students. They focus on the whole child, considering their well-being, interests, and academic ability. These programs cultivate and teach crucial life skills, assist students in becoming more socially intelligent, and create a sense of belonging.

Participation in these programs promotes teamwork, leadership, and creativity, thereby enriching the academic experience and preparing students for success beyond the classroom. Furthermore, these programs introduce students to skills required for their future.

Embracing Digital Tools for Classroom Transparency

At Larrakeyah Primary School, messages, newsletters, notes, and reminders are sent out through Audiri to ensure families receive the latest communication about upcoming events and activities. Audiri proves to be convenient as it groups families based on cohorts, and with one click of a button, updates are dispatched.

They have a fortnightly newsletter and digest that share the accomplishments of the school as well as the happenings in the classroom. The digest features videos that include informational content from staff and students to inform their school community about programs, school focuses, and achievements. Additionally, class teachers share student work through the Seesaw app.

Creating a Directory of Learning within a School

Danni has been fortunate enough to have been given many opportunities to further develop and grow in her profession. She has attended conferences both interstate and internationally, shadowed experts in the industry, and continues to upskill herself in the areas she leads within the school.

Social media has become another wonderful tool for professional development, and she is often inspired by the work of others. At school, their staff meetings have been strategically planned around the school’s focus. Each term, the principal and Danni sit together to plan the next term of professional development for the staff.

She also ensures she makes it her business to continue to find professional development of interest, read up-to-date articles on findings, and view case studies. However, she believes the most valuable way to learn new things in her career is within her own network.

She learns so much from her peers. She loves going into classrooms and seeing what they are doing, what programs they are using, and how they are engaging their students in the use of technology. Learning from one another and letting everyone know who the champions within the school are for certain topics creates their own little directory of learning.

Tracking Student Well-being

Danni has been a part of Larrakeyah Primary School since 2010 and has witnessed significant changes. The school has shifted from a focus on teaching to the curriculum and now provides programs that give students the opportunity to apply their learned skills to real-world scenarios. The focus has expanded from solely academics to also considering the well-being of students, recognizing the direct link between student well-being and academic success. The well-being of students is now tracked through multiple tools, and teachers regularly check in on students and teach programs that address the needs of their class.

One aspect that has remained constant is the community. The school continues to have a wonderful community where parents are eager to be involved in their child’s learning. Parents willingly participate in events such as camps or reading with children in the morning. The whole school event is well received and serves as an opportunity to celebrate the school.

Leading with Knowledge and Relationships

Larrakeyah Primary School continues to grow in numbers. 50% of their student cohort is EAL/D (English as an Additional Language/Dialect). This necessitates the need for the staff to upskill themselves on how to ensure these students access the curriculum. A significant amount of work has been done around tiered language and defining vocabulary with students.

Continued challenges include the workload and the expectations of the administration now required for teaching. These challenges end up detracting from the main purpose of the teacher: building connections and planning hands-on, engaging tasks. This is why the principal of the school has decided to further explore AI and how it can be used to reduce workload and engage their students.

Another challenge is building credibility with peers. This involves leading initiatives while also demonstrating that one has good background knowledge of the topic. Building relationships and getting to know the needs of the staff are crucial to delivering messages clearly and ensuring they are well received.

Exploring AI and what it can do for teachers and students is something that she is excited to learn more about.

Aspirations in Education

Danni’s aspirations outside of the classroom are anchored in personal growth and community engagement. She aspires to further develop her skills through continuous learning opportunities, such as attending professional development workshops and sharing her knowledge with others to help shape them into remarkable educators. She would love to someday be the principal of a school, given the opportunity to implement some of the wonderful programs she has been involved in.

She looks forward to engaging with methods of how teaching will be conducted in the future and would love to be part of any initiatives that pave the way moving forward.