Meet Ro Stewart – the Mike Horsley Award recipient for 2021

The Mike Horsley Award is presented to a professional in the educational publishing industry who has shown dedication to its advancement over an extended period of time. Pearson Australia’s Rosaleen Stewart was named the third recipient of this relatively new gong at the EPAA 2021 Awards. We spoke with ‘Ro’ to learn more about her career. 

Did you set your sights on a career in publishing, thirty-odd years ago? How did you end up in the trade?

My mum says she knew I was going to end up in a career involving writing or media because I was obsessed with stationery and spelling as a child! I had completed an Arts degree with Honours in History and after several years in an admin role, travel and some unsuccessful attempts to obtain a journalism cadetship, decided in my late 20s to do a Graduate Diploma in Librarianship. Then the Graduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing at RMIT under Peter Temple was established and I was lucky enough to obtain a place in its inaugural year in 1988. I attended a few Society of Editors meetings and loved the discussion; I’d found my calling. Straight after completing the diploma I obtained a role at Longman (Pearson) as a Primary Editor and I’ve stayed in education ever since. I always loved the way that editors in education contribute so much to the usability and learning value of the texts. It’s very hands-on.

You started out in editorial roles and moved into a publishing manager role. How did the transition come about?

I enjoyed editing and spent five years in the editorial detail of Primary resources but I also found it challenging. I am a detail person but I also found it difficult to be alone with my thoughts and, to be honest, to maintain the self-discipline required to work my way through days, weeks, months on large projects, even with that hands-on element. I started thinking about production roles and, as it turned out, my editorial role eventually morphed to become more a project editor/manager role. I was managing literacy projects and the opportunity to move to a commissioning role came up. I took it and have since moved into publishing management and from Primary to Secondary. BTW Primary is harder!

For those not in educational publishing , what are the key differences between an Editor and Publishing Manager? 

The main difference is that in publishing/publishing management you are able to research and then back your ideas, hopefully resulting in successful products and be involved in strategic decisions. You need to be externally focused and be able to work with data and customer feedback. In an editorial role, on the other hand,  you need to work with what you are given and build very collaborative relationships with authors and team members; I think in editing there is a true art in organising the content and improving the work of others to achieve best possible outcomes. The editorial role is changing more with new workflows in digital editing too.

Your nominators highlighted your support of new recruits into the industry, mentoring them with patience and a caring approach. Why do you do this extra work?

I’m pleased this was an aspect of my nomination as it is really what leading people is all about and isn’t really extra work. I can think of occasions where I really could have done better but I’m also pleased to see so many people who have reported to me doing so well in their careers, many of them now at higher levels than me.  I have strived to build trusting relationships with all who have reported to me. I have often looked after work experience students and advised the odd new graduate. I like working with kids and want to help young people find direction.

Did someone mentor you? Who do you attribute to your success in the sector? 

I mentioned in my award speech that I’ve been fortunate in having a succession of managers who always had my best interests – and that of our projects – at heart. It’s hard to single people out but my first manager in publishing, Ray O’Farrell, showed me what Primary editing was all about; Denise Ryan inspired a love of literacy teaching and learning; and Jenny Walsh and Arthur Baker modelled growth as a manager and handling difficult situations. I also learnt a great deal from authors … from Eureka Treasure Chest series author Pat Edwards and the First Steps team in WA, to name a couple. And from conversations with good friends in the industry … Brendan, Cam, Lee, Virginia, Alicia, Antje, Sonia, Misal, Vicki, Mal and Michelle.

Graphic announcing winner of The Mike Horsley Award is Rosaleen Stewat, Senior Portfolio Manager, K12 Humanities and Languages, Pearson.

You seem to have worked across a number of subject and content areas (K-6 resources, literacy intervention, curriculum maths, English and humanities.) Can you recall some of your favourite projects you’ve worked on? 

I think, as difficult as it was, my favourite was devising Pearson’s two-pronged response to Australian Curriculum Maths K to 6 in 2010/2011, though enVisionMATHS and Australian Signpost Maths because it was huge and daunting but we wrangled it in a way that made sense.  Also taking our early Literacy series Bug Club online. Though I haven’t been hands-on in this, the recent revitalisation of Pearson’s Secondary Languages series under Sonia Davoine and Laura Wright in my team has been very exciting to witness.

“In her career of 30 years she has made a major contribution to the lives of thousands of students and teachers across Australia.” How does reading that make you feel?

I hadn’t thought of it as exponentially as that, but it’s quite astounding. I feel both privileged and daunted. It’s also instructive as we plan new resources and solutions to think of impact … especially as we strive to inbuild more diversity and inclusivity in our representations of children and young adults in our resources.

What’s your vision for the educational publishing industry in the next 5-10 years? What would you like to see change? 

Like all of us, I’d like the industry to be recognised as an important member of the educational community especially when it comes to implementing new curriculums. I’m not sure Australian educators always realise the great resource they have in local educational publishing companies. I’d expect online learning in supporting and augmenting the role of teachers to continue to develop with a special role carved out for print. 

The Australian Publishers Association has been lucky enough to have you previously serve on the Schools Educational Publishers Committee and the Educational Publishing Awards Australia Committee –  how would you describe the educational publishing community?

People in our industry unfailingly want to provide the best solutions and resources for educators and learners and to provide them with excellent services as they interact with us. You rarely come across someone who isn’t an insightful, hardworking person of integrity in our field. I just think character wins and so our industry will continue to adapt and succeed.

If you missed the Educational Publishing Awards Australia 2021 broadcast, make sure you take a look at the broadcast on YouTube