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As Deputy Principal of the Berry Street School, Maddie Witter’s job is to support our school’s teaching and learning so that all students thrive, achieve and belong. The goal is for young people to succeed on their pathways of choice – whether that’s in further education, training or employment.

Maddie manages the teaching at the school so that it supports a positive culture of:

  • challenge
  • individualised support
  • collaboration.

An environment where all students can be supported in their learning

Maddie describes the Berry Street School as “a fantastic school for students who need that extra level of support as they transition to their future pathways. Staff have a warm and caring approach informed by the Berry Street Educational Model, which uses our approaches to trauma-informed learning and the science of wellbeing.

“We have high expectations for every young person’s learning. We support those expectations with hands-on learning opportunities and working alongside each student to set goals for themselves,” Maddie explains.

Why the Berry Street School is so special

Maddie’s top 3 things that make Berry Street School special are:

  1. All staff are highly specialised in a therapeutic approach informed by the Berry Street Education Model. This means they can support each student’s individual needs to help them reach their goals.
  2. Teachers are values aligned and have many opportunities to collaborate in order to drive continuous improvement.
  3. Our school is dedicated to building Reconciliation into all aspects of our curriculum. We’re committed to creating a high level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions.

On a personal level, Maddie most enjoys collaborating with other school staff members working across teaching, administration and wellbeing. She also loves going to the 4 campuses and seeing the students enjoying their learning, specifically their hands-on numeracy work, VCAL attainment and reading.

Building a love of reading among students

Maddie is the proud author of Reading Without Limits: Teaching Strategies to Build Independent Reading for Life, which provides teachers practical strategies to help build lifelong literacy skills. Maddie guides and supports the school’s reading program that builds students' stamina and reading skills, helping to inspire young people to become lifelong readers.

“You will become a better reader the more you read. It’s that simple. Plus, being able to read for extended periods of time has a wonderful regulatory impact. Your heart rate will decrease. You will settle into the flow as if time is standing still. Plus, if it’s an interesting book, it’ll be fun,” Maddie says.

“Since starting Reading Without Limits, our students have made tremendous growth. In fact, each year since I started, we have seen an average reading level increase of at least 1 year. Given that many of our students aren’t yet attending school full time, that’s remarkable growth.”

The future of education

Before coming to the Berry Street School, Maddie co-founded KIPP Infinity School in 2005 and Parkville College in 2011. KIPP Infinity is a Middle School in Harlem, New York that helps young people get to and through college, while Parkville College is multi-campus school for young people who are or who have been detained in Victoria.

Having seen how these two schools and the Berry Street School have positively impacted young people who’ve experienced disadvantage, Maddie says she “would love to see education evolve so that all schools incorporate a consistent therapeutic approach. Using this approach while explicitly teaching and building learning behaviours will support students to reach their full potential.”

More information

Visit the Berry Street School website

Meet other school staff members

By Maddie Witter