Sarah Payne is both a product and an example of the impact great teachers can have on a student’s life.
Sarah graduated from the ANU in 1995 with an Arts degree, majoring in French and German. More than 20 years on, she still remembers her French teacher, Chantal Crozet, who helped fuel Sarah’s love of the language.
In 1992, when Sarah mentioned to Chantal her plans to work as a nanny in Lyon, France, Chantal insisted that Sarah meet her mother.
“So I actually went and knocked on the door of her mother’s house and met her mother,” Sarah laughs.
While studying at ANU, Sarah lived at Burgmann College. As she lacked a car, she says her whole world was the university campus and the college.
“It was only after a few years that I discovered Canberra existed beyond the ANU and Civic.”
The daughter of two teachers, Sarah chose to go into teaching as graduation day approached. She taught French and German at Canberra Girl’s Grammar before moving to Canberra Grammar School, where she has been teaching since 2002. In 2008 she became Head of the Languages department.
She talks about Canberra Grammar as being a place where the teachers really get to know the kids and care about them as individuals.
“You just form great, long-lasting relationships,” she says.
It was one of these long-lasting relationships that led to Sarah receiving the inaugural ANU Patji-Dawes Award
in 2015 which honours outstanding language teachers.
Her nominator, Derek Bayley
, now works for Linklaters in London, having spent nine months at The Hague. He studied French under Sarah’s tutelage in 2009 and went on to do Arts
/Law at the ANU, majoring in German and Arabic.
At the awards ceremony, Derek described Sarah as “a world class language educator.”
“I thank her for imparting on me a deep understanding of the human science of language […] and breaking the stigma of language learning, particularly for young men, who are sometimes conditioned to believe that humanities are not a masculine or worthy pursuit,” he said.
Sarah’s success as a teacher seems to lie in developing good relationships with her students as well as making learning fun.
“I think that boys respond to games – especially competitive games. We also offer incentives such as study tours and exchanges. We also have enormous community support.”
Sarah says her parents find it wonderful that she’s found a career that makes her happy.
“Every single day there’s some kind of enjoyment and I do something that makes me realise I’ve just got the best job.”