Teacher inspired by hands-on-experience
Friday 13 November 2008
High school teacher Jacqui Smoler couldn't be further from her classroom filled with noisy boys in suburban Adelaide.
The recipient of the Australian BHP Billiton Science Teachers Reef Research Award, Jacqui is on Heron Island for a week-long trip assisting marine biologists in their daily work.
A South Australian with a teaching career spanning 23 years, Jacqui teaches senior biology and middle school science and maths at St Peter's College in Adelaide.
"It's a lot more relaxing than being in a classroom with a group of boys, I can tell you that!" Jacqui said of her trip so far.
She said her days on the island have been split in two: mornings are spent diving and collecting samples and the afternoons are spent analysing those samples.
"It reminds me of life at university, to be honest," she said.
Born in the seaside suburb of Glenelg in Adelaide, Jacqui spent many of her childhood summers fishing from her family's boat. Her love of the ocean led her to undertake an Honours degree in Marine Botany, specialising in algal taxonomy and ecology, at the University of Adelaide.
Jacqui's dedication to teaching has also been recognised by the ARMADA program, which selects a handful of American teachers each year to do field work in other parts of the world and mentor fledgling teachers.
Jacqui was selected as the lone Australian of the 2008-09 program and travelled to Rhode Island in the United States to take part in lectures and field trips.
She is now mentoring a Grade 4 teacher at her school and together they are developing a marine biology program for students.
When Jacqui returns to school she plans to turn her hands-on experiences on Heron Island into hands-on learning activities for her students in which they can gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the importance of ocean ecosystems.
"The last 12 months have been absolutely incredible for me as a teacher," Jacqui said.
"I've learnt a lot from the scientists I've worked with. I'm very grateful for this wonderful opportunity."
In addition to her busy teaching schedule, the self-confessed workaholic has just completed a Graduate Certificate in Science and Mathematics Education at Flinders University.