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A lecture theatre is a far cry from the floor of a hairdressing salon, but Deakin University senior lecturer Dr Debra Bateman credits this beginning and a tumultuous life for helping her win not just one but two national teaching awards in one year.
Dr Bateman was announced as one of 32 recipients of the 2011 Australian Awards for Teaching Excellence. The announcement literally followed days after the Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA) announced Dr Bateman as the Pearson Education Australia ATEA Teacher Educator of the Year.
Dr Bateman was cited by the ALTC last year for her Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning and in 2009 won Deakin University's Award for Teaching Excellence as well as the Vice Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Teaching, and the Dean's Award For Excellence in Team Teaching.
The achievements are even more significant because as Dr Bateman points out she finished high school begrudgingly.
"It's pretty overwhelming and incredibly humbling particularly given the circumstances I came to Higher Education in," she said.
Dr Bateman left school "because I didn't know what I wanted to do with life" and began her working life as a hairdresser.
"Then I had a car accident and acquired a brain injury," she said.
"As part of your rehabilitation you undergo vocational counselling to see what you can do and that showed I would be suitable for teaching."
Dr Bateman went onto teachers college, to do her Teaching Diploma and loved learning so much she went onto do her Bachelor of Education.
"In the middle of all that I got married, had two babies, Jack and then Daisy, and in 2000 when Daisy was 10 weeks old, my husband, Mark, a police officer died," she said.
"So I was now a single mum and really needed to think about what I wanted to do now, because I really had grown up."
Dr Bateman went onto teach, including teaching at disadvantaged schools, completing her Masters before coming to work at Deakin.
"When I heard I had won the latest award, I went onto Facebook and put a message to all the kids I have taught and my working colleagues and thanked them," she said.
"I only got these awards by learning from the people I worked with and from every child I taught.
"Every child you teach, teaches you something about yourself.
"That is why this is really mind blowing and so humbling.
"You can never forget where you have come from."
Dr Bateman acknowledges she doesn't really fit a particular mould.
"I'm a widow, but I'm not widow, people feel sorry for widows.
"It's remarkable what people can do, there isn't a turnoff switch.
"This sends my kids a message for the rest of their lives."
Deakin Vice Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander, said that Dr Bateman was a shining example of what could be achieved through dogged determination, perseverance and a love of lifelong learning.
"Entry to university is not the sole domain of the school leaver. Today there are so many options and pathways available for people who want to start university a little time after they have left school," she said.
"Debra's story shows us that, in spite of substantial hurdles along the way, huge success in education can be achieved with determination.
"And the long-term rewards are substantial with research telling us that higher education produces health benefits, greater earning capacity and stability in the workforce later in life," she said.
Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Foundation Chief Executive, Neil Soullier said the Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Foundation was delighted to learn of Dr Bateman's awards.
"We have known for a long time that Debra Bateman is an amazing woman; one who has dealt with awful tragedy and then balanced her role as a mother and career educator with commitment and determination," he said.
"Debra is very much a member of our Blue Ribbon family so we're extremely proud of her career achievements and these awards are worthy recognition.
"Awards are rarely given for motherhood but then they don't need to be when you meet Deb's children, Jack and Daisy who are treasured members of our Blue Ribbon family."
Mr Soullier said the Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Foundation perpetuates the memory of members of Victoria Police killed in the line of duty by supporting worthwhile community projects within Victoria. Money raised by the foundation is used to build new and improved emergency facilities in Victoria's public hospitals that are then named in memory of fallen officers.
Dr Bateman's husband, Senior Constable Mark Bateman was killed in the line of duty at Northcote on 20 May, 2000. He was 29 years of age.
"Debra has been a supporter and contributor to the Blue Ribbon Foundation, not for any personal gain but to ensure remembrance and recognition of other fallen police members and their families," he said.
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