In September 2019, the educational publishing community awarded the first Mike Horsley Award in memory of the man who established the EPAAs and inspired so many. The inaugural recipient is Queensland-based author, publisher and teacher, Peter Stannard of Firefly Education who we hear from below.
Read Peter’s reflections on the progression of his career and some highlights, and also the thoughts of those in his team, showing the family man and leader behind all the great literacy and education work he has been involved with for forty-odd years.
About Professor Mike Horsley
I first met Mike briefly in 2006 and then again at an Educational Publishing Awards ceremony in 2007 where we had a long conversation about why I should be actively involved in the APA. He was very keen to get home-grown Australian publishing companies involved in the APA. I then suggested that I come up to Noosa to chat with him since it’s only a 45 minute drive from the Firefly office. We spent a very fruitful couple of hours talking about teaching, schools and educational publishing beside the Noosa River at Noosaville where he lived. We had a number of these get-togethers on the river and during these times I got to understand his drive and passion to help kids learn.
Teaching and writing
After graduating in 1967, I became a science teacher at Noosa District State High School. Three years later I was appointed Head of Department (Science) at Aspley High School in Brisbane. During this time I submitted a manuscript for a series of science activity books to Macmillan Education. A week later I was signed up and then started the serious work of perfecting the manuscripts.
I worked as a Head of Department in two other schools over the next eighteen years, as well as writing and, at the start of 1989, I finally hung up my teaching hat to became a full-time writer.
The inspiration for my writing came from my style of teaching. I always believed that students need to be totally and actively involved in any lesson. They need to discuss, ask questions, clarify any uncertainties and be active in the classroom. The manuscripts of my science books reflected that style.
Over 43 years Macmillan Australia published more than 60 titles written by my co-author, Ken Williamson, and me. Notable titles include Exploring Science, Science Now, Science Alive, many editions of ScienceWorld and Secondary Science. In 1998 Ken and I received an award from Macmillan for 1 million copies sold.
In 1988 my partner Ann and I and teaching colleague Lesley Englert established Firefly Productions, where we self-published school musicals.
Soon after, I recognised an opportunity to publish educational resources. In 1992 Firefly Education (initially Firefly Press) was born with the publication of literacy companion workbooks written by Lesley for a number of my science series.
Using my experience in the classroom, I wanted to publish materials that were different from those on the market. My vision was to publish educational materials that encouraged students to make connections between what they learned in class and their everyday lives. At the same time the resources needed to support busy teachers and be easy to use in the classroom. By creating resources that combined these principles, I hoped to foster a love of learning in Australian classrooms.
In the following years, I worked with several authors (who were also practising teachers) to publish resources such as Letters and Sounds, Jigsaw Maths and the well-known Sound Waves and iMaths series. Each of these series focused on the principles and pedagogical approach which originated in my classroom teaching experience.
The Firefly Team
Firefly Education has gone from strength to strength, publishing award-winning books and innovative online resources including Sound Waves, iMaths, Writing Time, Think Mentals, and the digital programs Think Mentals Digital Classroom and English Stars. These products were developed totally in our Buderim offices. Our talented team of writers, editors, designers, programmers, animators and artists collaborate closely to produce world-class educational resources. Then the dedicated marketing team and sales consultants offer our products to Australia and the world.
Our world of publishing has changed over the nearly 30 years we have been in operation. In the early days we published student workbooks and teacher resources. Ten years later we established our online presence, and now we have our own bespoke digital products fully developed in-house.
I feel very privileged to work with such talented people at Firefly. When other people of my age pull the pin on their careers, I feel excited about going to work and sharing the team’s progress in the development of products.
Peter Stannard: Beyond educational publishing
written by the Firefly team
Peter’s impressive teaching career and contribution to the educational publishing industry is just a small part of what makes him the man he is. Peter’s magnetic enthusiasm for learning is evident in many aspects of his personal life. Here’s just a few insights into what shapes Peter Stannard.
Peter’s enthusiasm for education comes from a simple joy in helping children reach their full potential. So, it may come as no surprise that Peter and Ann are proud foster-parents. Over a period of 21 years, they welcomed four underprivileged teenagers into their lives. Now, alongside their three biological children, these family ties are as strong as ever.
In 2014, Peter and Ann travelled to Bali and went on a botany tour in Ubud run by a young local woman named Dewi. Peter quickly formed a connection with Dewi, sharing her passion for science and plants. Over the next few days this friendship flourished as Peter and Ann enjoyed hearing about the local land and customs, and Dewi and partner Dhika enjoyed receiving business advice. These conversations sparked an informal
True to their nature, Peter and Ann didn’t take this mentorship lightly, enlisting the talent of Firefly Education employees to enhance Dewi’s business. It culminated in a company-wide business development trip to Bali where over 40 Firefly Education staff were able to exchange skills and expertise with Dewi and her team.
A generous leader
Peter has cultivated a truly positive and enriching environment for staff at Firefly Education. When you visit the head office, it’s immediately apparent that it’s a family-owned business. In fact, it’s not unusual to see a grandchild pop in on the school holidays. Peter has gone above and beyond to create an inclusive and collaborative environment at Firefly. There are daily morning teas, family fun days, AGM team-building adventures and the staff were even invited to Peter’s surprise very big ‘0’ birthday party!
‘I’ve been fortunate enough to work at Firefly for seven years with Peter and Annie at the helm. Our company culture is absolutely led from the top. Peter’s teaching insight, capacity for new ideas and his generosity in mentoring has made, and continues to make, the culture at Firefly Education truly innovative, creative and fun.’ – Carlee Driscoll, General Manager, Firefly Education
‘Having known Peter and Ann for more years than I can remember, I was lucky to observe the early years of Peter’s enormous talent and enthusiasm for his teaching evolve into the publishing company that is the “Firefly family” today. His everyday actions continue as an example of leadership, generosity and compassion to family, friends and colleagues.’ – Lee Lemon, Business Development Officer, Firefly Education
A very deserving recipient for the inaugural Mike Horsley Award. Congratulations Peter! Thanks for all the work you have done on the Schools and Educational Publishing Committee of the Australian Publishers Association as well.
At this year’s Educational Publishing Awards the first Mike Horsley Award will be presented to an individual who has shown dedication and excellence in their contribution to the Australian educational publishing sector.
The Mike Horsley Award recognises outstanding service to the Australian Educational Publishing Industry (primary-secondary-tertiary) by an individual from within its ranks. The award honours Educational Publishing Awards founder, the late Professor Mike Horsley.
Nominations are now open for the inaugural Mike Horsley Award, the winner of which will be announced on 4 September, at the 2019 EPAAs. The individual will be selected by the Schools & Education and Tertiary & Professional Publishing Committees of the Australian Publishers Association.
Nominations can be made via this form and close on 9 August 2019.
About Professor Mike Horsley
Professor Mike Horsley in 1994 commenced the Educational Publishing Awards with the vision to promote and celebrate research, innovation and excellence in Australian educational publishing. He believed that Australian learning resources are a critical feature of the education landscape and a key influencer of student learning outcomes.
Starting his career as a secondary school teacher, Mike became president of the Economics and Business Studies Teachers of NSW, and went on to become deputy director of a UNESCO/UNDP/IOE regional vocational education curriculum project in the 11 countries of the South Pacific. With Ni-Vanuatu partners he established a new business school in Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu and was a long time resident of Samoa and Fiji. Between 1991-2001 he was the director of the Diploma in Education at the University of Sydney, and subsequently became foundation director of the Master of Teaching; the world’s first case based teacher education program. This led to appointments on Board of Studies Curriculum Committees and to the Review of Teacher Education in NSW, which prepared the path for the NSW Institute of Teachers.
For almost 10 years Mike conducted learning and homework centres for Sydney’s Islander (Samoan, Tongan, Fijian) communities. He was a world authority on homework research and in 2012 Reforming Homework, jointly authored by Richard Walker from the University of Sydney, was published by Palgrave Macmillan.
What resources are you really proud of that you produced recently and you know are making a difference in the classroom?
They could be a print resource such as a textbook or workbook, with or without a supporting teacher book, a digital only resource such as a website, CD/DVD or app), an enhanced eBook, or a blended learning resource. Whatever format they are in… enter them in the EPAAs for 2019!
Entries are open today for Australian educational publishers to submit their best learning resources made and published between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019 to the country’s eminent educational publishing awards. Enter now to be in the running!
The Educational Publishing Awards Australia will celebrate – for the 26th year in a row – excellence in producing vital learning tools used by educators and their students across primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
This year’s awards feature two new categories: one for a scholarly non-fiction publications and the other will be announced shortly!
The venue for the awards night is already booked – The Pavilion, Arts Centre Melbourne – and will take place a little earlier this year, on Wednesday 4 September 2019. Tickets will go on sale soon but get the date into your diary.
The call for entries is now open:
Nominations must be submitted by Friday, 31 May 2019. (NB. This has been extended from 24 May).
Whether you are a traditional publishing company, a niche publisher or a digital start-up, do enter, because we would love to consider and recognise your learning resource.
The awards will be presented in Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and TAFE & Vocational Education categories as well as the Primary and Secondary Publisher of the Year.
Take a look at the list of 2019 categories here.
How do I enter?
Entries are made via this digital platform.
Judging of the awards is a rigorous process for all involved. Back for a fourth year in a row is Chief Judge, Professor Angela Carbone, Associate Dean (Learning Innovation), Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology at Swinburne University of Technology. An overall winner for each sector (Primary, Secondary and Tertiary and TAFE & Vocational) will be selected by the Chief Judge from the category winners.
Interested to see who won in 2018? Or need a reminder?
Take a look here at the full list of previous winners.
2019 could be your year. Start submitting and we look forward to hosting you in Melbourne on 4 September.
Keep up to date and join the conversation: