Long-time educator, school leader and curriculum expert Brett Rangiira is proof that learning is a lifelong journey. The award-winning doctoral graduate is calling on fellow teachers to pursue their areas of interest by exploring the field of educational research.
“Practising teachers can bring a whole new perspective to research; they bring a wisdom and have a great deal to offer from the perspective of a practitioner,” he said.
Dr Rangiira said regularly stepping back into life as a student, including completing his Master of Education and a postgraduate certificate in education system leadership, had helped him to become an even better educator.
“It humbles you being a student again,” the 53-year-old said.
“It’s given me an opportunity to understand myself better as a teacher.”
A passion for education
Dr Rangiira has long worked as a maths, science, and religion teacher, as well as a curriculum consultant including a posting to New York when his children were aged just 1, 3, 5 and 7.
He and his wife Nicole, a pastoral care co-ordinator, also moved their family to the Tiwi Islands for almost a year in 2008 to help establish a school.
“We’ve been lucky enough and blessed enough to have these opportunities,” Dr Rangiira said.
“I’ve had a chance to look at the work we do as teachers from a number of different perspectives.”
Dr Rangiira, who is the Deputy Head of Secondary at Toowoomba Anglican School, said it was in 2013 that he felt ready to explore the possibility of higher research.
“There were deeper questions I wanted to explore such as what is the whole enterprise of Catholic education in this day and age?” he said.
He said having more than seven years to work on his thesis, which explored how Catholic secondary school teachers understand their roles in promoting students’ intellectual, social, personal, and faith development, allowed for deeper understanding.
“Having that length of time meant the ideas could develop. I had three years just to absorb the literature,” he said.
Alex, Sophie, Laura, Yentle, Nicole and Brett.
“Our teachers provide not just intellectual development, but social and personal and faith development and I wanted to understand that at a deeper level.
“It’s been a wonderful experience. It came at a time in my life when I was ready to do it and I’m very glad I did.”
Dr Rangiira’s research, which highlighted the central importance of the student-teacher relationship and provided an opportunity to explore teacher professional identity, has been recognised with a 2022 Australian Council for Educational Leaders Research in Educational Leadership and Management Award.
And he’s not ready to stop there with plans to generate articles based on his research as well as explore his situated pedagogical agency model.
“This field of teacher professional identity is very important,” he said.
“There’s more work to be done to develop a contemporary theory of Catholic education and understand where faith intersects with education in the modern world.”
His commitment to lifelong learning has also inspired his children with Alex, 26, Sophie, 24, Laura, 22, and Yentle, 20, studying or working in the fields of paramedicine, marketing, nursing, and law respectively.
Dr Rangiira paid tribute to ACU staff past and present who had supported him in his learning journey including Professor Chris Branson, Associate Professor Bill Sultmann, Associate Professor Denis McLaughlin, Dr Jan Grajczonek, and Professor Jim Gleeson.
“I had great supervisors and I am very grateful,” he said. “They really took an interest in me and helped me.”
He also thanked his family for their support and credited building a pizza oven alongside writing his thesis as a way to cope with the demands.
However, his first attempt at using the oven did not go to plan with “meteorites of burning salami and cheese flying through the air”.
In true fashion though, the culinary setback did not stop him from trying again.
“You’ve got to keep learning, so I came back from that even stronger,” he joked.
“Building that pizza oven is probably my greatest achievement after my thesis.”
Passionate about research? Explore research at ACU.