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2007 Mark Cooper Life Member

Article in EYC vol 13(2) pages 6-7

In 1973, twenty one teachers employed in the first state preschool centres to open in Queensland, formed the State Preschool Teachers' Association. These teachers were scattered throughout Queensland and knew that their major professional need was to share their experiences in order to improve their ability to manage troubling events and incidents.

In 1976 the name was changed to ECTA, reflecting membership recognition that an Association was needed that would serve the professional needs of teachers working in all sectors offering educational programs for children from birth to eight years of age.

In 1998, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of this Association, the first life memberships were awarded. The awards are made 'as an appreciation of contributions and dedication to the field'. This year, at the annual ECTA conference for 2007, the ECTA life membership award was presented to Mark Cooper. Mark joined ECTA as a first year teacher 24 years ago and has played a key role in the state coordinating committee, journal committee and conference committee for longer than nearly everyone presently involved.

Mark graduated in 1982 and began teaching in 1983 where it has been reported he 'swanned around on the beach' whilst teaching at Sarina Preschool for six months. Enough of the good life though, and Mark was soon transferred to Tieri - a mining town in central QLD. In Tieri Mark opened the town's preschool in the old pub which in fact was a donga (sleeping quarters for miners). Resources were scarce but Mark came through his first year inspection with flying colours - the children drawing with coloured chalk on the cement floor of the old beer garden showed Mark's creative use of materials and equipment. The Department eventually built a new preschool, opened by Flo Bjel ke- Petersen, but Mark's partner, Kim was transferred to Blackwater so the couple moved from one mining town to another and they stayed in Blackwater for two years.

In 1986, Mark was once again transferred to Ferny Grove Preschool and in September of that year Mark and Kim were married. Mark and Kim now have two beautiful daughters.
After Ferny Grove Preschool, Mark was transferred to Murarrie Preschool where the high quality of the programme he offered, and the way he involved parents, led to a role as educational consultant for the Department of Education, based at the Mount Gravatt Early Childhood Resource Centre. In this role, Mark worked with preschool/Year one, two and three teachers encouraging them to share philosophies on how children learn and develop, classroom management and matching curriculum to development and sectors. This team also worked with school administrators to develop P-3 philosophies in order to develop policies for the lower school.

After approximately three years as a consultant, it was back to working with children, parents and the associated primary school at Whites Hill until 1996 when Mark was seconded to Central Office as an Acting Senior Policy Office, Early Childhood.

This was the first of many positions in which Mark has worked since this move into Central Office at Education Queensland. He is currently the Acting Principal Policy Officer in the Strategic Implementation Branch and, as Early Childhood teachers, we must always appreciate that we have such a knowledgeable, committed and philosophically sound voice to speak for us.

Mark's varied career and his understanding of the workings of all sectors - schools and administration - has made him a valued and active member of the ECTA State Coordinating Committee from 1989 until 2000 and he has, over the years, taken responsibility for a range of committee positions.

As the ECTA State Regional Group Coordinator, Mark kept members all over Queensland in touch with trends, events and new developments while encouraging regional groups to share their own ideas and solutions to problems which are specific to country areas via networking, workshops and seminars.

During his time with ECTA, Mark also spent three years on the Editorial Panel of the Educating Young Children journal. From 1997 to 1999 he avidly canvassed for suitable articles, selected contributions and decided on possible future themes. Mark was well able to manage the stressful nature of this position, especially when deadlines had to be met. Over the years Mark has also been a journal contributor, writing articles about practical ideas to be used in the classroom and others that explore new innovations such as the introduction of the Prep Year.

The ECTA Conference Committee were also pleased to have Mark aboard from 2000 until last year, helping to organise workshops, trade displays, negotiating venues/catering and assisting on selecting guest speakers. There are many demands on the Conference Committee leading up to a conference as this event has not only a high professional standard to maintain but is the major money-spinner for ECTA. Over the years Mark has run ECTA conference workshops - one with his wife Kim where they used their combined expertise and understandings to explore how teachers can make links in literacy between Preschool and Year One.

2007 sees the circle begin again with Mark once again on the State Coordinating Committee. He continues, as he has for the past 19 years, to represent ECTA at various meetings and forums.

Those on the ECTA committees with whom Mark has workedhave described him in the following ways:

  • a most effective 'doer' who considers no job, beneath, below or unworthy of him
  • a man with a kind thoughtful manner who always gives you his full attention and makes you feel that he is very interested in what you ore saying (and he is)
  • a most unbelievable, behind- the-scenes 'mover and shaker'
  • a tireless worker, a professional leader and a supportive and dependable friend to a// the teachers, colleagues, children and parents with whom he has worked over the years.
  • a tall man but he is also a great man - a great teacher, facilitator, early childhood advocate, mentor, advisor, husband and father.

With his wide knowledge of all things regarding EC he has contributed to the success and relevancy of the ECTA we have today. One can only commend Mark on his ability and integrity to be an ECTA member supporting practising teachers with such dedication.

Every early childhood teacher in Queensland, nay, every teacher in Queensland, says, 'Thank you!'