UNE’s Associate Professor Robyn Cox was recently awarded with a Life Membership to The Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA), a renowned professional association for Australian teachers. Robyn, quite humbled by the awarding of this Life Membership has described it as a ‘once in a career event’.

Before discussing this fantastic win for Associate Professor Cox, it is worth exploring her academic background to get a better idea of what has gotten her to this point.

Robyn was a graduate of the Armidale Teachers College (at that time know as Armidale College of Advanced Education – ACAE) where she graduated as a Primary Teacher. The experience was not only the beginning of her career, but the inception of her love of children’s literature, and teaching early reading and writing. Robyn describes this as an important grounding in her academic career and now some 40 years later she is a well-known and respected leader in the field of Primary English teaching.

Since her time at ACAE Robyn has received a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Wollongong, a PhD from James Cook University and has taught at Universities in Australia, South East Asia and Europe over a 30 year period.

Robyn has been part of PETAA for many years, originally becoming a member in 1980. Discussing her association with PETAA over the years Robyn noted that she has always appreciated the Association’s staunch support of teachers:

“My recent award winning publication with colleagues published by PETAA and titled The Alphabetic Principle and beyond: Surveying the landscape is a good example of PETAA’s ability to hold true to the ideals of supporting teacher’s work in the classroom whilst reflecting policy directions of the state jurisdictions.”

Robyn was elected to the Board of Directors of PETAA in 2011 and then further elected to President in 2014 and continued on until 2020.

Robyn’s role as President not only proved rewarding, but it also allowed her to discover that she ‘relishes hard work and a challenge’. Furthermore, Robyn noted that when beginning as President of PETAA she realised the need to move the association’s teacher professional learning to an online presence to reach educators in all manners of educational contexts – something that proved the perfect challenge.

I suppose my great respect and belief in my profession of teaching has attributed to me always looking for supporting teachers in what they do best – teaching!

When asked what receiving the Life Membership to PETAA means for her, Robyn acknowledged the significance of the Association itself and its positive influence:

“I am joining a small elite group of academics in the field of the teaching of literacy in schools. A pantheon of intellectual leaders in the teaching of early reading and writing, those who have influenced the research, publication and practice in primary classrooms. I am beyond proud and also touched that my leadership has been recognised in this way. I am further proud that the core business of PETAA – early literacy is something that is central to our society, there is nothing more important than getting young children reading and writing.”

“I never thought my name would be grouped with previous recipients of this award – some 12 intellectual leaders awarded over a 50 year period. I am amazed and grateful that the current Board of Directors deemed me worthy to join this elite group.”

Associate Professor Pauline Jones, current President of PETAA, described that the awarding of this Life Membership to Robyn was in part due to her many accomplishments while at the head of PETAA, such as establishing the PETAA Research Grant which broke new ground and fostered publications and professional learning course.

While there are many other considerations and achievements of Robyn’s that attributed to her receiving the Life Membership, Pauline noted a particularly significant role Robyn played in the Association of late is her continued contribution to English curriculum and policy through invited panels and committees – “where she provides advice based on many years of scholarship and experience with the necessary – but sometimes challenging – diplomacy”. 

Congratulations to Associate Professor Robyn Cox on this well-earning achievement!