Damian Bisogni is a family man, a Dad with 3 boys aged 12, 16 and 20. Born in Melbourne, he’s been living on the NSW north coast for 20 years. As a teacher, for the last 15 years he was based at Ballina High School (now Ballina Coast HS), he developed his interest in Indigenous issues and worked to implement better policies and practises for their Aboriginal students who make up 20% of the school population.
Damian’s background is European, Italian and Hungarian. This diverse cultural mix, and his keen interest in cultural diversity was the foundation that facilitated a natural relationship with the Aboriginal students at Ballina HS. He built on that and became the Aboriginal Education specialist.
“I’m deeply cultural, I love finding out where people are from and their cultural background.
“The Italian side of my family does run a bit deep with me and I’m passionate about people understanding where they’re from and finding out as much as they can. It’s a fascination and interest of mine and one reason why I got involved in Aboriginal culture.
He also found that his teaching style resonated with Aboriginal students finding that they always wanted to be in his classes.
“I’m quite hands on, I mix things up and I get kids to become involved in the teaching and the learning. I hate education jargon. I’m a student orientated teacher. I let students drive the way they want to learn. I mixed well with them and I got to know them well.
But it wasn’t until he did the Stronger Smarter Leadership Program that he understood this resonance.
“Other teachers asked me what I was doing in my classroom that was so effective with Aboriginal students, however until I did the Leadership Program I couldn’t put my finger on it. After completing the Leadership Program I realised why things happened that way, it was the self-reflection and my beliefs and understandings, methods and ways of being. That was a real eye opener for me.
Damian became Head of Aboriginal Programs at the school and within the community. He also conducted a lot of PD relating to cultural diversity. This involved a lot of school events, study and working in homework centres, in a role that lasted for 3 years until the funding ran out. It was extremely disappointing, but Damian continued being the go-to teacher for Aboriginal cultural and student engagement.
Working with Stronger Smarter
It’s less than a month since Damian has been in the role but he says it’s already fulfilling his career aspirations.
Having done the Leadership Program 5 years ago, and concurrently the Specialists (formerly Facilitators) Program, he started living and reinforcing the Stronger Smarter Approach in his school. In the years since then, he’s voluntarily introduced more than 100 teachers from his and other local schools to the Stronger Smarter Online Module.
“It made me proud, and happy to show other teachers to get the same understand and powerful realisations from it that I did.
Damian also volunteered to co-facilitate with SSI to deliver programs in his local region. When the position for a Facilitator came up he says he didn’t hesitate.
“I just felt like it was made for me it. Everything felt right about it and where I was at with Stronger Smarter.”
He applied and started in the role 2 weeks ago. When asked what he says worked so well for him as a teacher he said, it was a unique program unlike any other he’d done in his career.
“It’s the only professional development that looks at your own practise and makes you self-aware and reflect. Everyone, IT doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, needs to improve and that means looking at yourself. I saw it as a personal journey that impacted on me a lot, then professionally that was a huge flow on and that made it a great program and journey.
“It touches every student that you teach. It’s not just about Aboriginal education and while it does spearhead that, it’s a ripple effect that Dr Chris Sarra talks about. I was the first teacher to do it at my school and now Ballina Coast is a Stronger Smarter school, every staff meeting, every faculty, every assembly. It’s an umbrella program across the school, other programs target certain areas, Stronger Smarter is a holistic program that weaves a school together.” Said Damian.
“It’s actually about being better humans, for me – at its absolute essence, it’s about 2 humans connecting on a positive note, then the ripple goes on. It’s really is a philosophy which can work on a whole school, state and nationally. That’s why I’m so excited about being a part of the institute and the team now. I’ve got a large role and part in that.