A MINDARIE teacher has won a $20,000 award for sustainability measures introduced at her school.
Mindarie Senior College geography teacher Tracy Smith won the Sangora Education Foundation’s outstanding secondary teacher award earlier this year.
In 2009, she started developing ideas of how to introduce sustainability throughout the entire college.
After creating a business plan, the school created a sustainability committee, wrote its sustainability police and approved its first sustainability projects the following year.
Since 2013, Ms Smith and another teacher have promoted sustainable practices across the college, including paper recycling, a market garden and worm farm, and teaching and modelling sustainable behaviours.
“We introduced the sustainability mentor group, where students volunteer to be a part of a specialist group responsible for choosing sustainable projects to establish around the college, be sustainability ambassadors for other students, conduct mentor workshops, and choose initiatives outside of the college to be a part of,” Ms Smith said.
“These have included myself and the students (as well as other students around the college) organising and participating in Clean-up Australia Day, Plant a Tree Day, weeding areas of beach in our local region, National Geographic Photography Competition, growing and cooking our own produce, re-use projects and making our own body scrubs and make up from coffee grounds.
“In 2013, I also organised and coordinated our inaugural Sustainability Expo which has been one of the greatest successes in promoting sustainability to the entire college.
“Other sustainable projects and practices that have been introduced around the college in recent years include mobile phone recycling, battery recycling, creating scrap note booklets from used one sided paper and the use of online lessons and submissions of assessments via Schoology in order to decrease photocopying and paper use.”
Ms Smith said a waste audit in 2013 found more than 45 per cent of the waste going into bins at the college could have been recycled.
“After only having paper recycling, I decided to investigate the costs and processes necessary for introducing co-mingle recycling,” she said.
“Through a successful application for funding from Waste Wise, we were able to purchase recycling boxes for each of the classrooms, yellow recycling bins for the entire college and recycling signage and posters.
“Recycling has increased from two tonnes in 2012 to more than 12 tonnes in 2015, and overall rubbish decreased by one tonne.”
Having been the lead geography teacher at Mindarie since 2009, Ms Smith said she never intended to become a geography teacher but now could not imagine doing anything else.
“Growing up in the country town of Northam, I started my post-schooling work and university career as an accountant at a local firm,” she said.
“Realising that my personality traits were better suited to a career working with people, I moved to Perth and completed a bachelor of education and bachelor of business – with a minor in sustainability and education.”
Unable to find an accounting teacher position despite graduating at the top of her cohort, Ms Smith took up a full-time position as a geography teacher at Mindarie Senior College.
“I almost turned this opportunity down, but the proactive and enthusiastic learner within me wanted to take on the challenge,” she said.
“It is my responsibility not to simply teach students, but to facilitate and guide their learning process; to inspire within them a passion for life-long learning and a thirst for knowledge.
“All students have the ability to achieve success if they are inspired, motivated and challenged by a teacher who offers to them mutual respect and trust.
“My teaching is varied and provides meaningful and engaging learning opportunities for all students in a safe learning environment.
“Through the use of technology (inquiry based web-quests, PowerPoints, online quizzes and games), geography bingo, songs, Play Doh mapping, hands-on experiments, guest speakers, and practical fieldwork and excursions, my students experience the fascinating facets of our world and consolidate their understandings.
“One of my strengths is my ability to reflect on and adapt my courses by seeking feedback from the people who matter most; the students.
Ms Smith said she would use the award to fund country and cultural study tours to Japan, New York in the USA or Frankfurt in Germany.