Griffith alumnus wins prestigious teaching award

Pacific Pines Primary School teacher and Griffith education graduate Natalie Harris has won the Queensland College of Teachers Excellence in Teaching Award for her work in inspiring young girls in science and technology.

The Year 4 teacher and leader of the PPP robotics and dance clubs, has set up school partnerships with Google, IBM, Cancer Council Queensland, BOP Industries (hologram), Suncayr and Technology One. This year she was awarded a RMIT scholarship to study Apple Swift Programming.

A former professional dancer, it was while she was living in Japan and teaching English that Natalie found she really enjoyed being with children.

“I thought this is something I can do when it’s time to hang up my dancing shoes, and because I knew Griffith had a great reputation for teaching education returned to Australia to study,’’ she says.

When she first began teaching Natalie wanted to inspire in her students a love of dance and the arts, but soon became passionate about science and technology.

“I volunteered to be one of the school’s first iPad teachers and it showed me the possibilities of integrating technology into teaching. So I learnt to code and to do as much as I could with the kids to engage them in learning.

“I was also inspired during my student practical placement by teachers who were passionate about science. The lecturers and tutors were so supportive and engaging.”

Natalie encouraged five of her students to enter the Tech Girls Movement Search for the Next Tech Girl Superherocompetition, which they subsequently won at a state and national level before being named as one of 20 global semi-finalists for Global Technovation.

“Two years ago, when I came across the Tech Girl Superhero competition I thought it would be really valuable for my students,’’ she says.

“We were the first state school to win and it opened a lot of little girls’ eyes to the possibilities of being involved in science and technology.”

Tech Girls Club

From this Natalie started a Tech Girls Club and currently about 30 girls in Years 4 to 6 attend each Thursday for one hour to learn about drones, robots, blended reality, stop motion and basically anything related to science and technology.

“For children to contribute as digital citizens in the workforce, they need to be digitally literate and fluent if they are going to succeed.

“Winning the QCT award is so special and rewarding. You don’t teach for awards but because you love what you do and to be recognised by your peers is humbling.”

The Queensland College of Teachers Excellence in Teaching Awards are the only state government awards that recognise teachers from all schooling sectors state-wide. The awards were announced on October 25, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day celebrations in Australia.