Science teacher and secondary resource co-author, Tori Shaw, this year joined the EPAA judging panel. We got to know her a little better and what she learnt in judging the learning materials that were submitted in this year’s awards.
Tell us a little about your teaching career. What do you teach and what do you love about being an educator?
I have been a passionate secondary Science educator for around 21 years now. I began in the State system where I was lucky enough to have the most amazing mentor who essentially shaped me into the teacher, and indeed the person, I am today. After seven years I looked for work closer to home and ended up in the Private system, and this is the sector I remain in today. Not once have I regretted being a teacher, despite the challenges, the hours and the never-ending busy-ness. The teaching profession is an amazing and varied career and Science education is the most wonderful of all. Helping students to understand their world, engage in and share in a love of learning, being able to explore complex concepts through experimentation and investigation… I could go on and on.
You’ve co-authored a couple of resources with Cambridge University Press. How did the opportunity come about to work with them? What was it like to develop a resource like this? What was your role?
Around five years ago, I randomly received an email surveying schools about their use of different Science resources and asking for teachers interested in writing, to contact Cambridge University Press. I cautiously responded to the email and after some writing for the online resource, Cambridge Dynamic Science, I began writing STEM tasks and co-authoring the Cambridge Science for the Victorian Curriculum 7-10 series. Boy was I lucky to have fallen into working with the highly motivated and professional team at Cambridge, led by Linda Kowarzik. I learnt a lot about writing, publishing, editing, design and contracts, and was spoilt to work with such a generous mentor in Naomi Sutanto. It was through her leadership that the Cambridge Science for the Victorian Curriculum series won the Secondary Student Resource – Junior (Mathematics/Science) category at the 2020 Educational Publishing Awards Australia. My first introduction to the EPAA. I am now working with Rex Parry co-authoring Cambridge’s new VCE Biology resources.
Why and how did you get involved with the EPAA judging committee? Was this your first year judging?
In 2021 I became a member of the EPAA judging committee for the first time. I was initially contacted by a friend at Jacaranda who enquired as to whether I was interested in being involved, and one contact led to another, and I agreed to take on the role. I felt excited by the opportunity and very flattered to even be considered!
What did you learn in the process of judging all the resources entered for Secondary this year? What stands out to you when thinking about the resources as a whole? What was the trickiest thing you had to do as a judge?
I must admit, I was particularly nervous about the judging. There was a big part of me that knew how much love and time the authors would have invested into their resources, and I felt ill equipped to be judging their work. The judging process certainly was awe-inspiring!! There are so many talented writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, researchers, contributors, designers, digital teams (and more!!) involved in the production of educational resources. The quality of the resources was so impressive and made the judging particularly difficult. As a teacher I could visualise how I might use the resources in the classroom to aid my teaching, how my students might use the resources for their learning, how different types of students in different schools with different backgrounds and experiences could be supported through the use of the various resources. And given the recent topsy turvy nature of our world, I liked to consider the flexibility of the resources in supporting teachers and their students working at home. Every resource entered in the EPAA made a valuable contribution to furthering the education of students in Australia.
What do you think educational resources are going to look like in ten year’s time for high school students?
What will educational resources look like in the future? Hmmm…. Research into how students learn and the best way to teach is continually evolving as generations change. I imagine then that the resources we use in the future will integrate those new ideas into what we currently know. We all know that resources need to engage our students and provide multiple opportunities for them to access and practise the key information. We know resources need to connect the students to what they are learning by making it relevant and clear. We know our students learn in different ways and have different needs at different times, so resources will need to be both flexible and adaptable. I can’t see that this will change.
Are you a teacher and are interested in being a judge in the EPAAs? Please be in touch.
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