Australian of the Year: Suzy Urbaniak, Science educator #AOTY2020 #ausoftheyear

Australian of the Year: Suzy Urbaniak, Science educator #AOTY2020 #ausoftheyear


To be an educator was never on the radar
as a career aspiration for myself. For me, it was all about geology.
I love rocks, I love volcanoes, and I love how the earth works. So off I went to
become a geologist. However, when I started working
out in the Great Sandy Desert, I didn’t realise at that time,
when I was a 21-year-old, that a few observations
and a few experiences would actually
map out my future. When I started
as a geologist, I thought,
“Why did I go to school?”. I wasn’t taught how to be a
scientist, so to speak. Science is learning, science is doing, engineering is doing. There was no way that my students
were going to work out of workbooks or textbooks or do
chocolate cake recipes. They were going to be young scientists,
they were going to be young engineers, hands-on learning, doing, through
inquiry, discovery, exploration. Effectively I brought into the classroom
my work practices as a geologist and, in turn, I took my students out,
into the real world, and they, then, understand
how their science applies, how their maths applies and
through their problem-solving and engineering, they’re
developing solutions. It is an amazing observation. What is even better, is that this
variety and strategies of learning techniques actually
accommodates the diversity of students that we have. Fifty-one per cent of my alumni
are female, of which 30 per cent are English second language and
10 per cent are Indigenous. This is 187 per cent more
which are currently employed by the resources industry. CoRE is for the students
by the students. I take on their feedback to develop
the model, to evolve the model to suit the needs and
capabilities of our kids. And these aren’t your students who are your traditional
‘A-type’ students. In CoRE, we celebrate the
Bs, Cs and the D kids. These are our entrepreneurs,
these are our organisers, these are our
generators of ideas. When I go out onto a mine site now
and I see geologists that were my students, and when they report to you that they
are succeeding and they are happy and they say “Thank you,
and thanks to CoRE, because now I know who and what
I am and what I can do”, that to me,
is reward in itself.

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