AT the core of every schooling community is its teachers, and science educator Samantha Brown is an integral part of Mount Gambier High School.
Ms Brown has worked at the school for 16 years and has shared her passion for science with secondary students for two decades.
Her foray into education began a university student in Adelaide before Ms Brown made the move to the Limestone Coast in 2002.
Ms Brown initially worked at Grant High School before moving to “Mount” two years later, a posting she has never left.
However, teaching was not always her goal.
Ms Brown recently reflected on her career, telling The Border Watch that research was actually her first choice of profession.
“My ambition when I finished school was to go to uni, do a science degree and actually work in research,” she said.
“But unfortunately in my third year I did a mini honours project and I did not enjoy it at all.”
With her future at a crossroad, Ms Brown said some advice from her schooling years convinced her to follow a new path.
“When I was in Year 11, a teacher told me ‘do not bother doing Year 12 biology because you will struggle with the subject’,” she said.
“I thought I would not want that to happen to another a young person because while that drove me to follow my direction, for someone else it could stop them doing something they might have been really good at down the track.”
In Ms Brown’s final year of her bachelor of science, she moved into a bachelor of secondary education at Flinders University.
Her science background fast-tracked her to the final two years of the four-year degree.
Ms Brown thrived off the enthusiasm her mentor displayed for science and embarked on her first year of teaching at the age of 22.
She completed some contracts for two years in Adelaide before looking for something “more stable” in Mount Gambier.
After settling into the Mount Gambier High School community, Ms Brown became a year level manager, vocational education training (VET) coordinator and a senior school assistant principal.
But teaching science has always been where her passion lied.
She teaches all fields of science and year levels, but specialises in biology.
Her favourite experiments include lighting up ping pong balls and making coins “squeal” with dry ice.
In each class, Ms Brown tries to engage students with real-life examples and urges the teenagers to keep asking questions.
She has become a valued member in the school community and her hard work has not gone unnoticed.
This week she received the 2020 Outstanding Contribution to the Teaching of Science Award (middle years) from the South Australian Science Teachers Association.
She won the award after being nominated by her coordinator and completing a large amount of assessment criteria.
A “surprised” Ms Brown said she could not believe she receiving the award, crediting her students for the honour.
“I certainly was not expecting it and I am really humbled,” she said.
“But it is not just about me, this is also about the kids I have taught.
“I would not be where I am without the kids and the experiences I have had on the way.”
The self-described “mad science teacher” said she loves her job and intends on teaching for another two decades.
“There is never a dull day,” Ms Brown said.
“We always have our challenges, but we also have some fantastically positive moments and I would not do anything different.”
Unfortunately due to COVID-19, Ms Brown will have to wait another year until she is presented with the award at the 70th anniversary dinner, which will be part of the 2021 SASTA Conference.