Our expert team

Our expert team

Our training is delivered by leading national and international education experts with decades of experience leading and supporting schools to deliver effective teaching. Good to Great Schools Australia trainers have all taught the programs they train in from at least two years and have lead Tailored School Implementations.

Dr Vicky Vachon - Director of Implementation Improvement

Vicky Vachon, PhD has decades of experience supporting schools to implement effective teaching in school settings across the United States, Canada and Australia. Vicky specialises in improving student academic achievement with a focus on literacy, and is recognised internationally as a leading expert in Direct Instruction school implementation.

Vicky has co-authored a range of papers and curriculum materials, including several books in the widely used REWARDS series. This is for remedial readers and to improve students’ oral and silent reading fluency by learning an effective strategy for decoding multisyllabic words. Titles co-authored by Vicky include:

– REWARDS: Word Attack and Rate Development Strategies
– REWARDS Intermediate
– REWARDS: Reading Strategies Applied to Social Studies Passages
– REWARDS: Reading Strategies Applied to Science Passages.

Vicky has also published a number of scholarly articles contributing to educational academic literature, including:

– Decoding and fluency: Foundation skills for struggling older readers’, in Learning Disabilities Quarterly (2005)
-‘The fragile X syndrome: A multidisciplinary perspective on clinical features, diagnosis, and intervention’, in Journal on Developmental Disabilities (1993)
-‘Developmentally delayed children – Ready for school, but are the schools ready for them? Parent and teacher perceptions’, in Journal on Developmental Disabilities (1993).

Vicky began her career as a classroom teacher in Canada working with very low functioning students. Feeling demoralised and frustrated with her inability to progress the students, Vicky was considering leaving teaching until a friend told her about a program called Direct Instruction. Vicky took some training in the program and then tried it out in the classroom. The poor behaviour disappeared and her fourteen year old students started learning to talk for the first time. Vicky’s passion for teaching was again switched on and led her to study under the creator of Direct Instruction, Siegfried Engelmann, doing a Master of Education at the University of Oregon.

After completing her master’s degree Vicky returned to Canada and joined a multidisciplinary team at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, providing tertiary assessment for children with developmental concerns.

In 1998 Vicky completed her PhD, with her thesis exploring effects on reading skills for middle school students with reading deficiencies.
She has lectured at the University of Oregon in special education method courses and design of instruction, and in the Department of Special Education and Community Resources.

As Implementation Manager with the National Institute for Direct Instruction, Vicky has supported primary and secondary schools’ improvement journeys, from small remote schools in Australia to large urban schools in the United States, Canada and Australia. Vicky led the team that implemented Direct Instruction at Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy in Aurukun, Coen and Hope Vale. Many of the well below grade level students Vicky first met seven years ago have since graduated from high quality high schools.

An experienced trainer, Vicky specialises in the REWARDS program, and has delivered workshops alongside her REWARDS co-authors Anita Archer and Mary Gleason across the United States, including at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington.
School partnerships and leadership team member biographies

As Implementation Improvement Director at Good to Great Schools Australia, Vicky oversees the quality of tailored school implementations. She reviews implementation and school results data, identifies anomalies, and provides regular mentoring and problem-solving sessions with Teaching Coaches and school leadership.

Interesting fact: Vicky is an accomplished and experienced yachtswoman. In 1992 she skippered the first-ever all-female crew in the Lake Ontario 300, a strenuous race circumnavigating the 380 kilometre lake. Her team split the fleet coming 44th out of 88 boats. Vicky is also Vice Commodore on the Board of Directors of her yacht club.

Dawn Hughes - Senior Teaching Coach (Explicit Direct Instruction)

Dawn Hughes has decades of experience as a mainstream and special education teacher, school leader and instruction coach in remote urban and regional communities and in the United Kingdom. A specialist in explicit pedagogies and positive behaviour management, Dawn is a leading Australian practitioner in creating and developing pedagogical frameworks, reviewing school data to inform practice, and coaching and mentoring graduate and experienced teachers.

Having demonstrated success in leadership roles such as head of special education services, behaviour specialist and head of explicit teaching. Dawn has spent the past five years supporting school leadership teams to effectively implement instructional improvement programs across schools and working with teachers to develop skills in explicit instruction and positive behaviour strategies.

As head of explicit teaching at a high school in Logan City, Dawn rolled out an explicit pedagogy across the whole school in all faculties. Before implementing the program many students had been entering the school at or below the national minimum standard. As a result NAPLAN data in all areas was raised for three consecutive years.

Dawn trained with the founders of Explicit Direct Instruction John Hollingsworth and Sylvia Ybarra and used the pedagogy in enhanced English classes and modelled it to teachers and heads of departments across the school. These students attained one and two bands higher in NAPLAN in less than a year and the schools whole NAPLAN results lifted in all five areas for two consecutive years.

Dawn completed Direct Instruction Coaching Academy training and now develops teachers’ ability to provide data-driven feedback, facilitating rehearsal sessions to provide practice for instructional staff in lesson formats and program content and determining appropriate interventions based on student data and observations.

Dawn frequently delivers professional development training for school staff at all levels including school executive teams from school clusters, teaching cohorts and support staff. She has also facilitated regional professional development seminars in the Reading to Learn program.
As Senior Teaching Coach at Good to Great Schools Australia Dawn provides support, coaching, evaluation and feedback to deliver and manage effective teaching implementations across urban and remote schools across Australia. She is also developing an explicit program that is aligned to the Australian Curriculum for students who have completed the Direct Instruction RMSE series.

Interesting fact: Dawn is originally from Wales and is a fluent speaker of Welsh. The number of Welsh speakers has declined so rapidly there was concern that the language would become extinct.

Dr Sheri Wilkins - Director of Professional Development

Sheri Wilkins, PhD has over 30 years of experience serving students with disabilities and building the capacity of educators to better support students with special needs. Sheri has worked at all levels of education, including preschool, primary school, high school and university.

Sheri has spent decades presenting and coaching teachers in literacy intervention, especially in the area of reading comprehension. She regularly provides Direct Instruction program training and classroom coaching, and has facilitated training for dozens of schools. Working across the United States and Australia, Sheri has worked extensively with schools and school systems to collect, analyse and use data to improve learning for all students.

Sheri has also teamed with school systems to implement district-wide change efforts, such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, and Response to Intervention.

Sheri’s PhD thesis explored teaching strategies for the comprehension of informational text. She also holds a Bachelor of Science (Special Education) and a Master of Arts (Special Education) with a focus on mild and moderate disabilities.

Throughout her career, Sheri has coordinated inclusion services for students with disabilities, provided professional development training to educators in evidence-based practices, and coached teachers and school staff in research-based strategies and practices.

In 2010, Sheri’s son sustained a mild traumatic brain injury in a car accident. As a result, Sheri has experienced first-hand the power of environmental modifications and metacognitive strategies to support people who struggle with executive functions. This personal experience led her to work with parents of children with disabilities, specifically children who may be inflexible, emotional, impulsive, or poor at planning and problem solving.

Sheri co-authored FLIPP the Switch: Strengthen Executive Function Skills, a book for parents and educators of children with executive function disorders characterised by disorganisation, inflexibility and impulsivity, such as attention deficit disorders, foetal alcohol syndrome disorder, intellectual disability, obsessive-compulsive disorders, social communication disorder, specific learning disability, Tourette’s syndrome and traumatic brain injury.

Sheri served on the University of California committee that developed a certificate program for teachers in the education of students with autism. She also served as a reviewer in the National Professional Development Center on Autism Disorders 2014 update on evidence-based practices. She has also presented extensively on the topic of Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism.

As Professional Development Coach at Good to Great Schools Australia, Sheri oversees the development and delivery of school-wide professional development plans. She also develops training modules and oversees the training and development for school leaders and teaching faculties.

Interesting fact: Sheri’s book FLIPP the Switch has been #1 bestseller in its category in Amazon.

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