In the face of many challenges, including a youth mental health crisis, significant teacher shortages and the introduction of curriculum reforms, educators across Australia are both enduring and innovating.

Some of these educators have been recognised in the Educator Australia’s Hot List 2023, which is used to shine light on those who are raising the bar and implementing new initiatives to improve the education sector.

One of the 50 nominees who were selected is Julie Pilioglou, Director of Vocational Education at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College in Braybook, Victoria.

This is the second time Pilioglou has been honoured with the award, being first named on the list in 2020, and she feels very humbled by all who nominated her. Despite it being a repeat occurrence now, she says it feels just as big as the first time.

“In 2020 I received the award given what I had been doing for our students during COVID and all those lockdowns and how we were trying to tackle education, but this time around, to be nominated and given the award again, it’s just as special because somebody’s recognising the hard work you’re doing,” she told Neos Kosmos.

In her role as Director of Vocational Education, Pilioglou overlooks the careers and pathways students can take, including the new reform certificates of the VCE Vocational Major

She was initially a PE teacher, at a time when there wasn’t many from other backgrounds other than Anglo, and worked overseas for a period. Upon returning to Melbourne, she decided she couldn’t still teach Physical Education, having had two kids and being older now, so she went back to university to study for her current career path.

When asked what her biggest passion is, she said it was helping disengaged students reach their potential and having the “opportunity to make a difference to a young person’s life.”

“It’s that opportunity that students may not get if they’re not given the right advice and what the pathway options are out there.”

“Once upon a time, you either went to uni or you had to go out and start working. Whereas now there’s so many opportunities out there and I think sometimes students get a bit overwhelmed and confused by what’s out there.

“So, to be able to give them that guidance gives me enjoyment and that’s why I really enjoy working in this in this area and that’s why I’ve stepped in.”

Coming from a family of migrants, Pilioglou says it makes it easier for her to associate with the students of her school, one with a large Vietnamese community, whose parents expect them to become doctors, lawyers, pharmacists etc.

“As a Greek my parents were the same and when we were going to school, most Greek parents wanted their child to go to university,” she said.

“I’ve been able to have a lot of empathy for our students that sit in front of me who say, ‘mum and dad, want me to become this,’ and I keep saying to them, ‘what do you want to do?’ Because at the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy something, you’re not going to commit to it.”