Warwick SHS teacher Ben Garnaut wins at WA Education Awards

WA beginning teacher of the year award winner Benjamin Garnaut with students Maggie Tat, Aidan McCrory, Hef Bava, Bronte Scaife, Sam Cahill and Ryan Craig. Photo: Martin Kennealey
WA beginning teacher of the year award winner Benjamin Garnaut with students Maggie Tat, Aidan McCrory, Hef Bava, Bronte Scaife, Sam Cahill and Ryan Craig. Photo: Martin Kennealey

WARWICK Senior High School teacher Ben Garnaut says he felt humbled to receive the beginning teacher of the year title at today’s WA Education Awards.

Mr Garnaut, who teaches science in years 7 to 10 and physics in years 11 and 12, said teaching was a team effort and credited his colleagues for his success.

“I was pretty humbled and shocked with the award,” he said.

Mr Garnaut had been working as a FIFO geologist when he decided to change careers to find more meaning in his job.

“I went on a holiday and during this time I had the epiphany that teaching would be a great job,” he said.

“I wrote my application to Edith Cowan University while on that holiday and since then I have found my vocation.”

Mr Garnaut had tried a range of different careers, including geology, landscaping and a coffee business, Higher Grounds, which he started with a friend who still runs it.

His parents were also both teachers and his dad was once district director of education.

“Teaching wasn’t on my radar growing up however, after trying a few different career paths, I decided to give teaching a go and it was a brilliant decision,” he said.

“I enjoy the sense of discovery with the kids.”

The Fremantle resident first started at Warwick SHS as a student teacher in 2015 before graduating from teaching at ECU in 2016.

He won the Science Teachers Association of WA’s Jeff Cahill Award early career science teacher award last year for his efforts to keep students excited about science and is now the WA beginning teacher of the year.

Associate principal Robyn Cleaver said he was an exceptional teacher and had a rare gift for making difficult topics easily understood.

“Ben has played a major role in curriculum development in science since his arrival,” she said.

“He demonstrates real skill in differentiating the curriculum to suit the needs of his students.

“He has introduced an electronics option course, incorporating experiences that are both exciting and challenging, to increase student interest.

“Under Ben’s tutelage it is now proving to be one of the more popular option courses with 73 enrolments in 2018 and the involvement of a second teacher.”

Colleagues praised Mr Garnaut’s positive approach to life and his relationship-building skills.

“My inspiration for lessons comes from life outside of the classroom,” he said.

“From telling stories about working on the mines, surf trips to Indonesia or just something I’ve seen on the news or in the paper, I try to engage the students in the world outside of Warwick so they can see themselves as part of a global community.”

Mr Garnaut said it could be challenging on an emotional level to think about what students experienced outside the classroom and wanting to help everybody.

“I really like working in that space with students that might not have had many opportunities to get engaged in science,” he said.

“Helping students from a variety of backgrounds, especially less fortunate, that’s the best part of my job – to help them see options for their future they may have never considered and then supporting them to achieve goals to get there.

“I want my students to see that the world is a truly fascinating and brilliant place.”

Mr Garnaut said he felt lucky to have survived a childhood injury when, as a seven-year-old, he was hit on the head with a golf club while learning to play golf with a friend.

At the time, he required a craniectomy to relieve the pressure on his brain and spent two weeks in intensive care.

“I feel very lucky to have survived and am grateful for the doctors and surgeons that helped me throughout that stage,” he said.