QUT education grad inspires students to love their language

First published 31 January 2020

A QUT graduate is helping young children embrace and celebrate their language and culture at school with an innovative new program.

Alice Pan-Moreau is a primary school teacher at John Paul College in Brisbane where she started the Mother Tongue Club, a program designed to promote cultural inclusion and community.

The Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) graduate said her own experience as a student who spoke English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) was one motivation for starting the program.

“I still remember migrating to Australia when I was 6 years old, and not speaking a word of English. I would feel embarrassed to speak Mandarin in front of my peers,” said Alice.

When Alice started her role as a year two teacher at John Paul College, she saw an opportunity to create a safe and positive space for the students who came from many different cultural backgrounds.

“John Paul College has more than 30 different home languages spoken by EAL/D families in the primary school alone,” said Alice.

“I was inspired to create a platform for different cultural groups to have the space and time to connect in a deeper way.”

The Mother Tongue Club gathers students, parents and community members over a lunch break every month. Each event is dedicated to a chosen culture often linked to a cultural celebration such as Holi Day or the Mid-Autumn Festival. Participants are encouraged to communicate in their home language as they socialise over activities and food.

In 2019, Independent Schools Queensland awarded Alice a Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher certification for her achievements on the program. More importantly, the program has fostered a more culturally and linguistically responsive school environment.

“Our students, teachers and community now see diversity as a strength and tool to enhance learning experiences,” said Alice.

A passionate advocate for equity in education, Alice has returned to QUT to complete a Master of Education (Leadership and Management). Alice believes that all teachers can take steps to ensure every student has equal access to deep and meaningful learning.

“My message to teachers is to find ways to get to know the diverse backgrounds of their students and work closely with their families and experts at school to ensure every child achieves success and growth.

As educators we have the opportunity to inspire and make a difference on our next generation – what an amazing privilege that is!”