Renee Whitcher, Head of Peter Moyes Centre (Senior School)
Renee Whitcher is Head of Christ Church Grammar School’s Peter Moyes Centre in the Senior School (formerly the Education Support Unit), which provides a service to students with a range of disabilities that vary in the level of support needed from low to high.
BEd(ECU) GradCertASD(ATO) Cert IV Assessment & Workplace Training(CEO)
It is Renee’s second year in the role following two years as Head of Individual Needs at Wesley College in Melbourne and two years as Head of Special Education at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College, also in Melbourne. Previously, Renee worked as a Special Education Teacher at Newman College Perth for four years.
Renee always had a passion for helping people with special needs, going right back to when she was a primary school student at MLC. After doing some relief work at Christ Church PMC in 2002, Renee knew she wanted to come back here, and jumped at the opportunity when it arose.
Responsible for 10 boys from Years 8 to 12, Renee is assisted by one teacher and five education assistants. “My role is to offer a programme to students that is dynamic and challenging and facilitates students with work and individual living skills that they can build on and use in the future,” she said.
Renee was enjoying introducing new initiatives to the centre this year. The boys have taken on a delivery round for the Western Suburbs Weekly, which offers them work skills (adding pamphlets, folding papers and counting into baskets) and community access (delivering the papers).
“The boys love it and it provides great skills in helping them get ready for the workforce,” Renee said. “Some of the older people in the community know what time the boys deliver the newspapers on a Wednesday and they come out and wait for them. The boys love meeting new people so it’s great.”
Renee has also connected the PMC to MLC’s Special Education Department and every fortnight, the boys and girls from each centre meet at a local café and practice their conversation skills. Renee said the initially nervous boys now loved meeting the girls each fortnight.
“This has now stemmed to bigger things and we’ve been invited to MLC to do home economics cooking with them on their site once a week. And we’re hosting a disco next week and have invited MLC, John XXIII College and Newman College Special Education Departments. We hope each school will then take turns to host one each term.”
Renee said the boys’ learning was split into topics each term, with all the learning domains, such as geography, art, numeracy and literacy, related to that topic. This helped the boys learn and make relationships between what they were learning.
Australia was the topic for term one and Renee said the boys had not only learnt a lot about their country, but developed their various skills. “All the boys learn together but are all on individual education programmes and all have different work to do on each topic. We work on their strengths.”
Renee’s passion for the boys is obvious. “It’s the small successes that make me do this job,” she said. “Whereas in a mainstream class you can get instant success, here it might take a boy six months to learn to tie his shoelace, but when he achieves it, it’s a huge celebration for everyone. It’s like a little family. It’s about the close rapport that you develop with the students, and it’s knowing that you can make a difference on a daily basis.
“Kids can tell if you don’t believe in them,” Renee said. “But if you show them love and respect, they listen to you wide eyed and respond with enthusiasm. We aim to make them happy, confident, educated young men. We believe, in our ethos, that we’re creating stepping stones for these boys to ensure that they either access employment or alternates to employment when they leave Christ Church.