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Sally Brock - Education Officer (Gifted Education)

I am the Education Officer – Gifted Education for the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese and chair of the Diocese’s Gifted Education Committee. I have been involved in the development and implementation of the system-wide approach to gifted education K–12 since it began in 2017.

I hold a Master of Gifted Education from the University of New South Wales. My role is to coordinate the development of gifted education programs in schools, implement initiatives and recommendations, disseminate information and facilitate professional learning for teachers and leaders to ensure gifted education is embedded in curriculum delivery across the Diocese.

In my role I have established our Gifted Education Lead Schools and provided support and professional learning for the Gifted Education Mentors (GEMs) in each of these schools.

I have developed and implemented consistent identification procedures and resources for schools and trained staff in analysing and using this data to inform teaching and learning particularly for our academically gifted learners.

In 2018, I began the Virtual Academy for highly gifted students in Years 5 8. This online program provides students with complex units of work that cover many subject areas and link to real world problems. I manage the Virtual Academy with the support of the Virtual Academy teachers. 

It is a privilege to work with our school leaders, Gifted Education Mentors and staff as we work together to provide meaningful opportunities for all students to excel, engage and exceed expectations in their learning.


Emma Bennis

I am excited to be stepping into the role of Education Officer – Gifted Education at the Catholic Schools Office this year. It is my belief that Catholic schools in the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese are leading the way in gifted education in Australia, and I am looking forward to contributing to and learning from the great work already happening in our schools and classrooms.

I am coming to the Catholic Schools Office from working in a variety of middle leadership roles in the independent sector, including Middle Years Program Coordinator and Head of Learning Enrichment. In these roles I gained invaluable experience working across all areas of a school and demonstrated a passion for leading differentiated instruction to ensure the success of all learners. I am a secondary English teacher and my classroom has always been an inclusive, dynamic and creative space where expectations are high, and students are challenged to think critically about the world and their role within it. Some of my most rewarding moments as a teacher have been witnessing our young people engage in service-learning, using skills gained in the classroom to care for and empathise with others.

I hold a Master of Educational Leadership and a Bachelor of Education (Secondary)/Bachelor of Arts from the University of Newcastle. I have completed a Mini-Certificate in Gifted Education with UNSW and in 2021, will complete a Graduate Certificate in Inclusive Education with Charles Sturt University.

I am looking forward to working in partnership with schools to ensure all our gifted students achieve personal and academic success.


Bianca Sibert

I am the Acting Virtual Academy Coordinator, having joined the Virtual Academy at the beginning of 2021. I am passionate about passing on a love of learning to the next generation and am thrilled about the opportunities working in this role will provide in supporting a growing cohort of unique and bright minds. My own learning journey is ongoing. I have a Master of Teaching (Secondary English), a Graduate Certificate of Theology, a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Communication, from Newcastle University and Broken Bay Institute. I have completed the Mini-COGE as well as numerous days of professional learning with ALDEA Education in Gifted Education. Building students’ confidence to feel comfortable in being themselves, however different they may feel, is very important to me and something I will continue to foster within this role. I look forward to collaborating with the community of Gifted Education Lead schools and GEMs as we work to support the individual learning needs of students with particular gifts in our Diocese.


Rebekah Stokes

I joined the Virtual Academy in Semester 2, 2021. I have worked in a number of schools across our Diocese since graduating from the University of Newcastle. I have a personal interest in sustainability and stewardship and recently completed postgraduate study in STEM Education where my major research project was based around combining 21st century technologies with sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in classrooms. I have been a class teacher of students in the Virtual Academy and completed several days of Professional Learning with ALDEA Education in Gifted Education. I am a passionate primary school teacher and love to create learning pathways for students to achieve their full potential.


Andrew Roberts

I am delighted to join the Virtual Academy after working for nearly 16 years in public and independent schools in the Hunter Valley. My teaching experience is mostly in high school Science and Stage 6 Physics and I have also taught maths, engineering, music and philosophy. The Virtual Academy (VA) provides gifted students with the support and guidance required for them to develop and showcase their skills through appropriately challenging work, and I am looking forward to playing a role in this development. Some of my favourite teaching moments have come in the context of delivering interdisciplinary units of work and seeing students develop solutions to real-world problems, and I know that VA students across the Diocese will produce creative and effective projects across a range of areas. I am keen to meet the students, teachers, parents and staff associated with the Virtual Academy and to work together with the goal of seeing students flourish in their endeavours.