Smart Teachers at CONASTA 2019

The voice of experience in ‘Uncharted Territory’: Advice for science teachers from CONASTA 2019

On a recent trip north to attend CONASTA, the annual science education conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) in Darwin, our Smart Teachers team were excited to speak with Colleen Palmer, a senior years science teacher from Brisbane’s Clairveaux MacKillop College, about her experience both in and out of the classroom.

Colleen, who was the lucky recipient of a Smart Teachers raffle prize, has been working in education since 1987 and shared emphatically about her love for teaching – a love that remains as strong as ever after an impressive 31-year teaching career.

“I really love teaching senior biology – genetics in particular. I always really enjoy teaching it, and the students love it. It’s such a fun topic to unpack and to work through.”

Reflecting on the importance of conferences such as CONASTA, themed around ‘Uncharted Territory’ in 2019, Colleen was quick to emphasise the value of networking, and the importance of opportunities to learn from others in similar roles.

“The most valuable part [of CONASTA] for me was the ability to make links and network with other teachers. I thoroughly enjoyed being connected to the science teaching community and learning about new developments and innovations in teaching science.”

Attracting a national delegation of more than 500 science educators, the opportunity to network provided by CONASTA was evident to the Smart Teachers team, who were proud to play a role in facilitating a valuable professional learning opportunity for teachers looking to improve not only their own educational practice, but to pass on their insights to others – particularly early career teachers seeking support from those in more senior positions.

On this point, Colleen was also quick to add some of her own advice and encouragement for younger teachers:

“Ask for support. Keep going, don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

With staff retention increasingly becoming a focus for schools across the country, Colleen’s advice certainly carries some additional weight, and speaks to the valuable role mentors, leaders and professional communities (ASTA, Tes) play in ensuring new teachers are inspired to pursue long and fulfilling careers, not just in science, but across all areas of teaching and learning in Australian education. She is however, quick to remind others what truly drives her passion:

“I do it for the students. It’s special to me to work with them, and for some students, you’re the only constant and stable adult in their life. The kids are what I really love about teaching.”

Quite frankly, we here at Smart Teachers couldn’t have said it better.

If, like Colleen, you love teaching and have a passion for science, Smart Teachers have positions available across Australia for educators like you.

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