Central Queensland University

11/26/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/27/2023 20:29

Regional teaching unlocks passion for Reef, real science - CQUniversity

27 November 2023
the Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools 2023 recipient Judith Stutchbury 

From award-winning student at CQUniversity, to 2023 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science recipient, innovative Kalkie State School teacher Judith Stutchbury says telling a good story is the key to science teaching.

And the passionate educator says regional Queensland might be the best place in the world to inspire the next generation of scientists.

Mrs Stutchbury grew up in Bundaberg, and moved to Rockhampton to study her Diploma of Primary Teaching with CQUniversity (then Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education), graduating in 1988.

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I left school, but my dad was a veterinary surgeon, so I grew up with science in my backyard - literally!" she laughed.

"Taking that interest and experience in science, I am very thrilled with the pathway the CQU Bachelor of Teaching degree led me on."

Mrs Stutchbury was named the Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools recipient in October 2023, recognising her efforts as a Reef Guardian teacher, as a global leader in classroom science collaboration, and most recently as an author of the science education resource Hatch Saves the Reef.

"Looking back, a lot of small steps in my teaching has led to big impacts - but I couldn't have done it without the CQU degree!" she said.

"My teaching career has meant I can explore science in ways that have been really mentally interesting, and because I'm staying interested and passionate, I've been able to inspire my students too."

While at CQU, Mrs Stutchbury remembers an early push to strive in science, receiving the Bob Beevers Prize for Computing.

The experience also showed her the importance of connecting with people, and building relationships.

"Bob Beavis had passed away, and the award was named in his honour - I remember writing a thank you note to his wife, she she wrote back saying, 'you're the only one who's ever said thank you!'," Mrs Stutchbury said.

"That really stuck with me, that people really appreciate it when you make the extra effort to connect - and students are just little people, they appreciate it too!"

In her teaching placements, and in her first job at a regional Queensland school, Mrs Stutchbury was quick to use the Great Barrier Reef as a teaching tool.

And soon she was sharing her science education with a wider audience, after an invitation to a local TV news crew to cover her students' "spaghetti writing" project turned into her hosting a statewide science education series.

"That's the great thing about teaching in regional areas - you can make contacts and make things happen," she said.

Kalkie State School only eight kilometres from the Reef's Mon Repos Beach, home to the greatest number of loggerhead sea turtles nesting in the South Pacific region, and Mrs Stutchbury's students have learned the importance of marine turtle conservation, and how the beach is critical to the survival of the endangered species.

Recently, Mrs Stutchbury returned to CQU lecture theatres, to inspire some first-year Bachelor of Education students as a guest speaker in Bundaberg.

"That was a beautiful opportunity for me, because I know my teaching career wouldn't have happened without my CQU education," she said. "It's wonderful to see a new generation on that same path."

"Although it was also a reminder of how much time has passed since my studies - one of the students put their hand up to tell me I'd been their teacher in Year 3!"

Her students also present their science experiences to other classrooms around the world, as part of the Roots & Shoots project founded by globally renowned primatologist Dr Jane Goodall.

"Some of the students love to jump up in front of the camera, but not all of them - but it's so important for them to understand talking in front of people isn't scary, it's really a life skill they need, and enthusiasm for the topic can unlock that!

"Kalkie State School is leading the way for global collaboration with other schools across the world, creating connections with other schools that are also passionate about protecting the environment and the world's oceans - and I'm proud to be part of that.

"When parents tell you that you're making a difference to children's lives, and I see it in their attitudes and what they do, it's both very humbling and exciting as a teacher."

To learn more about CQUniversity's Education courses, visit cqu.edu.au/study and search "Education".