IT'S rare sight to behold: a class of 16 year olds, who spend their spare time tweeting and socialising, sit captivated by a rendition of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
At the front of the class is a teacher, brandishing a wooden ruler as if it were a 16th century sword, re-enacting a fight scene from the play.
The class sits silently as she recites a soliloquy in which Romeo describes his love for Juliet, without once having to glance down at the script.
Not one student is reaching for a mobile phone. No-one is gossiping to a neighbour. She has their full attention.
Esther Alexander, known affectionately to her students as "Mrs A," is an English teacher at Alexandra Hills State High School.
To many of her students, however, she is so much more - a role model, a guide, a friend, during a crucial time in their teenage lives.
Esther decided she wanted to become a teacher after she was inspired by a woman who shares her passion for writing and literature - her own high school English teacher, Ms Sherwood.
Ms Sherwood taught Esther lessons about life and teaching, but one event in particular shaped the way she, to this day, approaches her students.
During her final year of high school, Esther experienced a crisis in her life. Eating disorders, rocky relationships and absent parents left her on the cusp of a breakdown.
"I can remember one day thinking, 'I cannot do this anymore. I can't do the studying, or the writing. I'm going to fail my exams and I'm going to let down Ms Sherwood'," Esther said.
"I went to see her in her office and I said to her 'I'm sorry to let you down but it’s too much. I can't do this anymore.'
"She said to me, which blew me away but I've never forgotten it, 'That's fine, don't worry about it. You just go and do your best. Don't worry about the study or the revision.'
"I thought she would be angry, or upset, or disappointed more than anything. But she took all the pressure off me … and I did well in the end. That stuck with me, that somebody would care more about me than the grades I got in passing.
"She's one of the big reasons that I am teaching."
Not unlike her inspiration, Esther is uncommonly compassionate.
Her ability to win over a class of riotous teenagers stems from her willingness to get to know the person, rather than just to teach the subject.
A former student, Keara Forde, describes Esther as the "best teacher I've ever had".
"The thing about Mrs Alexander is she is so passionate about her students," she said.
"She takes the time to get to know you on a personal level so she's aware of your strengths and weaknesses not only academically, but personally as well."
When asked if she gets bored teaching the same thing year after year, Esther replies, "Well, you don't teach things, you teach people. The goal is to connect and relate with people and that is the most important thing, because if you don't have that you're not going to teach them anything."
Esther began teaching in the United Kingdom in 1979 and has since taught in the West Indies, Japan and Australia. The experience of teaching in different parts of the world has allowed Esther to notice the similarities between adolescents worldwide. "When you move around a little bit you realise although things are different, essentially at the heart kids are the same. At heart most kids want to learn. Not only do they want to learn but they need to feel good about themselves. They need to hear somebody say 'good job' or 'yes, you can do it.'"
Former deputy principal of Alexandra Hills State High, Jan Jarman, believes teaching is one of the most demanding careers, both professionally and personally, that a person can undertake. "Teaching is a high energy business that demands constant calmness of the spirit while dealing with high energy adolescents and engaging in hundreds of interpersonal communications with students, parents and other teachers every single day," she said.
"The myth of the teacher who works only between 9am and 3pm and who has approximately 10 weeks' holidays a year is long gone. It is certainly not a job for the faint-hearted."
With this in mind, the fact that Esther is always willing to go the extra mile for her students and her school, speaks volumes about her character.
Jan describes Esther as "a gem" of a teacher whose contribution to the school is immeasurable.
"School initiatives are many when you have staff like Mrs Alexander. This year and last, she is not only responsible for the student leadership program but also, she is the whole school literacy coordinator, providing leadership to all staff to improve literacy knowledge and achievement across all year levels, focusing particularly on students in the Middle Years (7-9).
"I think if all schools could only employ teachers of Mrs Alexander's calibre, Australia's international student results would be higher than those of Helsinki, Shanghai or Singapore, who currently top the globe for 15-year-olds," Jan said.
Another former student, Joshua Stevenson, recalls a time when Esther went above and beyond for him, and describes it as the difference between him receiving his Year 12 certificate and not.
During his final year of high school Joshua started to struggle with his school work, failing modern history and going down the same track with English. Esther realised that if Joshua didn't pass his next English assessment he would not qualify to receive his Year 12 senior certificate.
"I was worried about not getting my senior certificate because I really needed it to get an apprenticeship," he said.
"I went to Mrs Alexander and she said, 'If it's the last thing I do I'm going to make sure you pass this assignment.'
"She even rang my mum to explain everything to her, which mum really appreciated. She met with me before and after school and put in more effort with me than any other teacher I knew. I ended up passing the assignment and getting my certificate. But I couldn't have done it without her."