Having grown from an in-school upskilling event, this year’s conference expects a sold out crowd of around 150 attendees.

Tracey Breese, principal of Kurri Kurri High School, is the driving force behind the conference.

“It started out with me running it for 30 of my staff, and a heap of other principals heard about it and said ‘look, can we send people, can they come along?’ and so it sort of grew from there,” she says.

The conference is now so in demand that Breese has been forced to move it off site, to the Newcastle City Hall.

ProjectNEST’s focus is on innovative teaching practices, and “the four Cs”; critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

“Basically, we would like people to take away a new way of thinking about learning. So it’s about really looking deeply at the pedagogical practices that they use in their classrooms, and shifting those practices to be more about the four Cs of future-focused learning,” Breese says.

One of the big changes in ProjectNEST’s evolution has been an increased adaptability, with the conference responding more to the needs of participants.

“I think we’ve become more responsive ... so we put out a bit of a survey first so we get to know the learners before they come to us,” Breese says.

“And that way, we use that survey material to then design the conference, so nothing is set in stone until that survey comes back to us about their needs.”

The conference’s unusual name carries two meanings. NEST is an acronym, for Nurturing Excellence in Students and Teachers.

As for the ‘Project’ component, Breese says that it reflects the collaborative nature of 21st century teaching.

“In life now, and in so many varying workplaces, people work in projects. 

“They work collaboratively, there’s not really the autonomous, old-school, ‘shut the door, no one comes in or out of your classroom’ any more.

“There’s this real shift in teaching around co-teaching, co-planning, working together, collaborating, really knowing, valuing and supporting students...”