Michelle Attains Lead Teacher Status

Our Head of Professional Learning, Michelle Carrick, recently attained national certification as a ‘Lead Teacher’. Michelle was one of only 64 people nationally to have attained this certification in 2023. Last night, she was presented with her certificate during a ceremony at AISWA. Michelle reflects on the process of attaining certification and her career in the interview below.

What is National Certification?

National Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers (HALT) is awarded by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). It acknowledges teachers who demonstrate exemplary teaching practice and expertise.

The certification process aims to:

  • Identify, recognise, and celebrate quality teaching.
  • Provide teachers with opportunities to reflect on their practice.
  • Promote excellence in teaching across Australia.

HALT Certification supports AITSL’s broader goal of improving the quality of teaching and learning in Australian schools.

What inspired you to begin this process?

I embarked on the AITSL Lead Teacher certification process driven by a passion for personal growth. The low number of certified teachers in Western Australia sparked my curiosity about the process and its potential impact. On closer inspection, the value of certification became apparent to me. As someone who thrives on personal projects and embraces opportunities for career development, I was eager to delve into this certification to enhance my own understanding and practice and to bring learnings into my role at Santa Maria College.  

What was involved in the process?

Quite a bit of work! The certification process involves assessment against the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers at the High Accomplished or Lead Teacher career stages. In Stage 1, teachers seeking certification must submit for external assessment a detailed portfolio of evidence and written reflections that showcase their teaching practice, impact on student learning, professional engagement, and contributions to the broader education community. An application for Lead Teacher certification must also include a description of a Lead Initiative, which the applicant has designed and implemented to build the capacity of colleagues within the school. Stage 2 of the assessment for certification consists of a site visit by an assessor that includes direct observation of the applicant’s practice and discussions with the applicant, their manager, and other colleagues.

How will the certification help in your role as Head of Professional Learning and as a teacher?

A key aspect of my role as Head of Professional Learning is to build a positive professional growth culture for teaching staff. In this role, I prioritise projects which empower teachers to improve teaching and learning, leading to better outcomes for students. The process of being certified as a Lead Teacher allowed me to reflect on my own practice as a teacher and leader against the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Working closely with these standards has developed my understanding and enabled me to lead conversations within the teaching community at Santa Maria about teaching practice and impact. Gaining certification has also given me greater confidence in mentoring and sharing my expertise with others.

Certification has allowed me to join the HALT Network which connects nationally certified teachers. It enables certified teachers to develop expertise with like-minded colleagues from across Australia and work together to share their collective expertise with the broader profession. Later in May, I will be attending the national HALT Summit in Sydney and I’m excited to have been chosen to showcase Santa Maria’s professional growth program for teachers (EXCEL) at a ‘share space’ session during the Summit.

Can you share your career path and the schools you have taught at?

Following graduation from Santa Maria College in 1993, I immediately commenced studying a Bachelor of Education at Curtin University, where I qualified to teach Humanities & Social Sciences, English, and Religious Education. I was 21 when I began my teaching career at Prendiville Catholic College. Following Prendiville, I taught at Chisholm Catholic College for three years before returning to Santa Maria College as a staff member. Although I loved my time at Chisholm, I jumped at the opportunity to further my career at Santa Maria. In fact, I am a third-generation Mercy girl, with my grandmother and mother being educated at St Joseph’s College (now Mercedes College). My daughter continued the family tradition, graduating from Santa Maria last year.

Most of my teaching career has been at Santa Maria, where I’ve been blessed to have taught hundreds of students and experienced different roles. My journey has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally, and I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had along the way. During my time as a staff member at Santa Maria, I have taught Humanities & Social Sciences, Geography, and Religious Education. I’ve led retreats, field trips, and interstate tours. I have also served in leadership positions as the Head of Learning Area (Religious Education) and the Head of Professional Learning.

Throughout my career, I have always sought to grow professionally. I hold a Master of Education (Leadership and Management) from Notre Dame University and an Instructional Leadership Certificate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. I have also been privileged to participate in the Catherine McAuley Award for Leadership and Service, as well as the Mercy Leadership Program and Dublin Pilgrimage.

What do you love about teaching?

While I didn’t always know I wanted to be a teacher, I discovered my passion for education and have never looked back. What I love most about teaching is the opportunity to inspire and empower students to reach their full potential. It is incredibly rewarding to see their growth and development, both academically and personally, throughout the school year. I enjoy reading the alumni stories published in the College’s News Blog to learn about our students’ post-school journeys.

When I am not working in the professional learning space, I am preparing for and teaching my Year 10 Geography and Year 8 Humanities & Social Sciences classes. I appreciate the curiosity, energy, and enthusiasm that my students bring to these classes. I am fortunate to work amongst teams of teachers and leaders who are passionate about providing excellent teaching and learning opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom.

Thank you!

I sincerely thank our Principal Jennifer Oaten, Deputy Principal, Teaching & Learning Simone Sawiris, Acting Head of Humanities & Social Sciences Elizabeth de Byl and AISWA’s Manager – School Leadership and Teacher Quality Meika Pfeiffer-Gough for their support as I worked through the certification process in 2023. Their enthusiasm for excellence in teaching and learning is infectious!



Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2023). A snapshot of national certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers (HALTs) in 2023 [PDF]. AITSL, https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/certification/certification-snapshot-end-of-2023.pdf

Framework for the Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers (2017). Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/understand-certification-and-halt-status/framework-for-the-certification-of-highly-accomplished-and-lead-teachers

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