10 questions with… Sally Howell


Sally Howell is the Principal of the Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC) School, which caters for children from Kindergarten age to Year 6 who have special learning needs.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the education of children with special needs, Sally draws on this to work collaboratively with parents and teachers to support the children.

Sally also develops training materials for teachers and has contributed to special education postgraduate courses in effective numeracy instruction, effective reading instruction and behaviour management.

In terms of a special education school, MUSEC is unique in that it provides a rigorous academic program in early literacy and early numeracy, implemented by highly skilled and highly qualified special education teachers.

“We offer a structured small class program with a high ratio of teachers to children.

So, children who are struggling in busy, noisy classes of 20-plus children often flourish in a much smaller class,” explains Sally.
“A lot of our instruction is provided in groups of two to four children. So, it’s for the sorts of children who really need intensive instruction, children who don’t cope so well with the real busyness of a larger classroom with just one teacher.”

An avid reader and lover of Nordic crime shows, we find out more about this impressive Principal.

1. In a nutshell, my job is to…
Ensure MUSEC School operates as a model of exemplary special education practice. On any given day I will be in the classroom teaching, on the playground supervising, working with teachers and postgraduate students, and interacting with parents. After school hours the focus is the endless paperwork!

2. My definition of success is…
Happy and engaged children and teachers. Evidence-based teaching practices really do lead to success.

3. A person at Macquarie who inspires me is…
Macquarie has a long history of excellence in special education and I have benefited from numerous experts in the field. Coral Kemp, my PhD supervisor and a tireless advocate for special education and the translation of research to practice, has been a wonderful mentor. Many years ago, I attended a session by Max Coltheart, now Emeritus Professor, Department of Cognitive Science, and my passion for special education and supporting children with learning difficulties was born.

4. The scariest thing I’ve ever done is…
Zero response. I think I am probably one of the most risk-averse people on the planet. I like to think I would respond well in a crisis, but I don’t go out of my way looking for thrills.

5. As a kid, I was…
An avid reader and daydreamer.

6. My guilty pleasure is…
Binge-watching Nordic crime shows.

7. I’m scared of…
I worry that the ever-increasing expectations put on teachers, often by those who have never taught a class of children, will result in less joy in what has been an incredibly rewarding and joyous profession for me.

8. I’m happiest when…
I reflect on the progress that so many children have made while attending MUSEC School. Thanks to the teachers and children, I am in the enviable position that every workday is a good day (perhaps not EVERY day but 99% of days).

9. If I had the day off today, you would find me…
Sitting in the sun reading a book.

10. To me, the best thing about the Macquarie community is…
The collegiality and willingness of others to share their knowledge and expertise. I love reading about the amazing research that is happening across the University.





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