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‘You’ve got to care for young people’: Why Michael Nayler is an award-winning educator

Making a difference: Michael Nayler.

MICHAEL Nayler was the principal at St Michael’s College, Merrimac when he had a ruptured brain aneurism during Book Week 2017.

Partly due to the medical scare, he stepped back from his role as a principal and decided to spend the rest of his career supporting indigenous students in Queensland.

Mr Nayler is the secretariat director of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation, which provides scholarships to thousands of indigenous students across the state.

Mr Nayler said education was invaluable.

He spent 31 years in Catholic education, picking up the School Leader of the Year at The Community Leader Awards 2014.

“The thing I love about (teaching) is it’s an absolute privilege to work with young people,” Mr Nayler said.

“At the end of the day you feel like you’re making a difference in young people’s lives, that’s whether I was working as a principal or working for QATSIF. 

“That’s the thing that motivates me at the end of the day. 

“You don’t do it for money, you don’t do it for other things.

“Watching young people achieve and really do well in life, and particularly those that are struggling – whether that’s through poverty or other issues – but to see those young people do well that’s been a real gift.”

His advice for young teacher was “go for it”.

While he said teachers dealt with tough situations particularly in their students’ family lives, it was a brilliant career nonetheless.

“But you’ve got to have that heart for young people,” Mr Nayler said. 

“You’ve got to care for young people, (you have to be) doing it for the right reasons. 

“Catholic education particularly, that heart for the poor, caring for the poor and marginalised, that’s the very heart of everything we’ve been on about since we started here in Australia and before that.”

Now, working for QATSIF, Mr Nayler has overseen significant growth.

This year would be the biggest yet for QATSIF.

“We’ve had just over 1653 applicants I think,” he said, “Which is the biggest (number) by a long way. 

“As usual, about 20 per cent of those are from Catholic schools so it’s going to be a huge year ahead. 

“I think next year if we get all those kids through, we’ll have about 3000 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander students in our Queensland schools next year.”

Mr Nayler said his nomination for The Community Leader Awards 2014 was an absolute thrill.

“I still have the award at home, I still have that up at pride of place and I carried it around the school as I was school principal and had it on my desk,” he said.

He said he was lucky enough to receive recognition but there were so many deserving educators out there. 

“That’s the one thing I’ve always felt… every school I’ve been at has stayed my school,” he said.

“Once you’re in that community, it’s a family. 

“You are cared for as a member of the family. 

“I even had the wonderful Pam Betts our (Brisbane Catholic Education) director, she met with me after I’d gone across to QATSIF and had a coffee and a chat and that’s just a sign of the great care that Cath Ed has that its director would make time to sit and have a coffee with someone.”

Time to send in nominations for The Community Leader awards is running out due on October 20.

The Catholic Leader’s managing editor Matt Emerick urged people to look around their communities and think about the leaders who made a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

“This is a great opportunity to highlight the best in our communities,” he said.

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