Members in Profile

Susan Caldis

Each month we ask a member to write a few words about him or herself.  In this way we will get to know each other better.  You can access profiles for members featured in past months by going to our Members Profiles category in our Resource Library. 

This month's Member in Profile is Susan Caldis.

As I reflect on my career in Geography education, from geography teacher, through to curriculum developer, to leader of professional learning and now an aspiring academic, two magical charms emerge as flowing, intertwined constants throughout my professional life. These enchanting gems brought me through the door, then they captivated and connected me, and now their magnetism ensures I remain. The charms are the dual pedagogies of inquiry and fieldwork, and the incredible network of expertise and support drawn from the professional associations. 

From my experience in school, pre-service teacher and teacher professional learning classrooms, I know the spell of inquiry and fieldwork takes time to master. It is an evolving and experimental process requiring variance for many contexts, but perhaps this is part of its magic! From my connection with the professional associations, I learnt how to weave this alluring spell to show colleagues and peers how to bring Geography to life for their students. I am also encouraged to write articles and lead conference sessions to share this learning about using inquiry and fieldwork to become a curriculum-maker, a re-conceptualiser of syllabus dot points and creator of interactive future-focused geographical learning experiences. Australian and international geography academics and geography educators were instrumental in providing research to demonstrate the fundamental nature of inquiry and fieldwork to the teaching and learning of Geography. Without their support and provision of an extensive evidence base, I could not have pushed so hard in my curriculum leadership capacity at the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) for inquiry and fieldwork to be specifically represented in the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum: Geography, and in the Senior Secondary years. A marvel considering inquiry and fieldwork are defined as pedagogies by the curriculum purists and therefore are not typically included in curriculum documents because the function of such documents are to provide an outline of ‘what’ to teach rather than ‘how’. 
A new pathway is now illuminated for me. I can continue to use the charisma of inquiry and fieldwork, and more deeply intertwine with the academic geographer associations through my role in teacher-education and commencement of higher degree research. Current areas of research interest include the use of fieldwork as a tool of conceptual change in student and teacher understanding; and the influence of place on reflection and reflective practice amongst pre-service teachers.

However, personal geographies have magical charms too, so in closing I’d also like to share another dual charm: food and culture. I was born in England and migrated to Australia for the start of my high-school years. My husband is a first-generation Greek-Australian, born in a small country town of the Riverina to recent-arrival parents who were part of the Greek Milk Bar phenomenon. We have been fortunate to spend time exploring the village in Lesvos connected to his heritage. It is a traditional village with income still derived from the tapping of resin and the processing of olives into oil. Here in Australia, our family consumes olive oil produced from the olives grown in the groves owned by my parents-in-law, and I am taught the characteristic recipes of the island, village and family I am now connected with – and then we adapt for dietary needs, availability of ingredients, palate, and to create a fusion of British-Greek delights. This fascination for food and culture was evident in my audition for MasterChef a few years ago, where I reached the Top 150 because of the clarity between my dish and food philosophy being representative of the people and places who make up my world.

Overview of Career

Year Position
1996 - 2001 Classroom teacher; Environment Committee Co-ordinator 
2002 - 2010 Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator; Head Teacher Social Science; School Certificate and Higher School Certificate Marker; Mentor for Geography teachers in the Northern Sydney region.
Member, GTANSW; Presenter at HSC Lectures for GTANSW, RivSSTA, School of Distance Education and Northern Beaches Learning Alliance.
2010 - 2013 Senior Project Officer, Geography, ACARA.
Commenced Master of Education (research specialisation).
Councillor GTANSW; Member, IAG.
2014 - 2017 Sessional unit convenor for Geography Methodology and HSIE Education, Macquarie University. 
Commenced Higher Degree Research on scholarship, Macquarie University.
Secretary AGTA (2014 – 2017); President GTANSW (2014 – 2016); Director PTC NSW (2015, 2016); Vice President GTANSW (from 2017); Councillor GSNSW (from 2017); AAAE President (from 2017).
Awarded Outstanding Service to the Profession (2015), and Meritorious Contribution to the GTANSW Journal (2016).