2020 Spirit of Catholic Education award for Gold Coast teacher


​​BCE Acting Executive Director Dr Doug Ashleigh (left) presents Paul Barrett with his Archdiocese of Brisbane Spirit of Catholic Education Award

PAUL Barrett has been recognised for his work in helping families affected by this year's bushfires with a prestigious Archdiocese of Brisbane Spirit of Catholic Education Award.

The popular St Augustine's Parish Primary School,​ Currumbin Waters, Year 2 teacher accepted the award from Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) Acting Executive Director Dr Doug Ashleigh on behalf of students who had overwhelmed him with their enthusiasm to send messages to families in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT.

“I feel a little overwhelmed by the gesture and I feel I'm only really able to accept it on behalf of the school because it really was a whole school project," Mr Barrett said.

Paul's Positive pictures for bushfire victims program resulted in hundreds of letters of encouragement and colourful pictures of positivity being drawn at St Augustine's and sent south to Catholic schools for distribution to families.

He said the response was overwhelming.

"A principal from a school in eastern Victoria rang our principal to explain how much those letters meant to the families in his school community.

“He broke down and cried on the phone because he was so moved, proud of the love and the spirit of our school to forward this gesture to the families and the children in his school," Mr Barrett said.

Paul said​ the students typically drew rainbows and butterflies and smiley faces and flowers and a lot of positive things.

“We had to instruct the younger ones not to draw pictures of bushfires but to draw pictures that would raise hope or bring about some positive reaction," he said.

Dr Ashleigh said the whole of BCE was very proud of Paul and he was deserving of the award.

“In the true spirit of St Mary of the Cross Mackillop, Paul saw a need and responded in a heartfelt and purposeful way," Dr Ashleigh said.

“Working collaboratively with fellow staff members and students, Paul's initiative provided hope and inspiration to families suffering loss and tragedy through the devastation of the recent bushfires," he said.

Mr Barrett said he was proud of the St Augustine's community and their response to his call to action.

“Everyone working here is very deserving of the accolades, so I intend to share that joy with all of them."

“The children felt really excited about the challenge to do something to help someone that they would never get to meet.

“This is something fundamental to what it means to be in a Catholic school community and becomes a way in which we can follow in the footsteps of Jesus."

Paul Barrett celebrates his Spirit of Catholic Award with his Year 2 students

“I just wanted to do positive pictures to help people in the bushfires feel happy and I just wanted to make them have warm hearts," Year 2 student Amelia Baartz said.

"I did lots of flowers and trees and I was drawing a person that was looking at a bird tweeting."

Mr Barrett, who has been teaching at St Augustine's for 21 years, said the school community had always been generous.

"There is a thread of generosity and kindness that has always permeated the fabric of this school," he said.

“That has always been my experience.

"Visitors come in here and say 'wow, there's such a sense of a positive spirit in the place'."

Dr Ashleigh said Paul's achievement showcased Catholic education at its best.

“We were delighted to have record award nominations this year with more than 40 combined entries from Brisbane Catholic Education," Dr Ashleigh said.

“That underlines the quality of work that occurs each day in our schools, which is always directed towards the best outcomes for students," he said.

A full list of 2020 Spirit of Catholic Education Award recipients can be found at: https://catholiceducationweek.com.au/catholic-education-week-awards/​

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