Purpose: How Jo Genders is enriching the lives of students

Jo Genders is a strong advocate for enriching young lives through learning. Our Director of English truly embodies BGGS’ aspiration and leads her faculty with great energy and a deep respect for her colleagues. Jo shares with us how she finds purpose in her role—in both teaching and leading— every day.

An office brimming with balloons may not be how most people visualise the inner workings of an English Faculty, but with Jo’s birthday falling on the weekend, her faculty have decorated her office—‘from ceiling to desk’!

The balloons represent more than just collegiality amongst English staff—they reflect Jo’s commitment as a Director of English to ‘create a genuine sense of belonging and care’ amongst her staff, a task made easier by BGGS’ faculty-led approach to learning.

‘There is this lovely sense of belonging. I think part of that is because staff are structured along faculty lines. You are not spread thinly across the School. There is a chance to gain a deep understanding of your curriculum and subject discipline because you work with people whose area of expertise is the same, and there is something really powerful about that shared passion. There is a real identity to belonging to a faculty in this School.’

Jo believes this opportunity for mastery is rarely found in other secondary schools.

‘I have a really strong team and we are committed to being the best faculty we can be. It is something we embrace. The work is hard, but the reward is great. There is intrinsic value in that, and there is also evidence of your hard work in the way the girls respond. It is really wonderful.’

Walking into a classroom has always felt like home for Jo. This began with her first-grade teacher, who ingrained in Jo the importance of showing up each day wanting to make a difference. She carried this through her Bachelor of Education (Hons) and subsequent teaching and leadership positions before taking a long-term role with the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA). After a decade of supporting English teachers across Queensland, Jo felt it was time to return to the classroom.

‘When the position at BGGS became a possibility, I was thrilled. Because of my role at the QCAA, I was aware of the quality of work produced by the School’s English Faculty, and their students. And I just thought, this is the place for me.’

Jo joined BGGS in 2017, and in 2019, she was appointed Director of English—a role that allows her to combine her passion for being in the classroom with that of leading a high-performing, engaged team.

‘We give our students a great English education, as well as an education in what it means to sign up to your life—to live with purpose. That is invaluable. While doing that, we develop our new teachers as well. I have certainly grown as a teacher since I joined BGGS in 2017, and I’ve been teaching for 25 years.

‘Being able to grow as a professional while also shaping the lives of students reflects how education transforms the life not only of the student, but the teacher.’

After all, as Jo points out, long after they’ve left BGGS, students return and share just how much the School has impacted their lives—‘working here is about those girls telling us we gave them the choice to be what they want to be, and I think it’s a really nice thing knowing you had a part in that.’

‘It certainly makes it easy to find a strong, and consistent sense of purpose, and to instill that across your team—the results of your hard work are life long, and life changing.’