Passion drives teacher

Holly ThompsonManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Manjimup Primary School science teacher Gavin Fialkowski has loved his first year on the job.
Camera IconManjimup Primary School science teacher Gavin Fialkowski has loved his first year on the job. Credit: Holly Thompson

A passion for science has led Manjimup Primary School teacher Gavin Fialkowski to inspire his students to love the subject just as much as he does.

Gavin has always been interested in science, ever since he was a child and it was his best subject in school.

He said although he had always loved the subject, it had taken him a little while to fall into a teaching career.

“I did a bit of a mid-life career change after speaking to the father of a really good friend of mine who is a teacher,” Gavin said.

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“He was very passionate about teaching and it led me to consider a similar career, I was working as a consultant for local government at the time and it was not the right career for me.”

From this point Gavin decided he would try his hand at teaching and began his Masters course which he said he loved.

“From there I went on to become a primary school teacher and I officially started my new career in 2016,” he said.

Gavin spent a few years working as a relief teacher at several schools in the area and then moved to Manjimup Primary School, where he started out teaching the Year 5 and 6 class.

A grant then helped set up a separate science program, a first for the school, which started at the beginning of the year.

Gavin decided he would love to take on the role of science teacher and he now teaches all year groups over the course of a week.

“It was a really cool opportunity which let me set up a science lab exactly how I wanted it and it has been really great to have so many resources available,” he said.

“I teach kindergarten through to Year 6 and I always make time to go across to the Education Support Centre too, it has been something very different to me as I am very used to teaching upper primary, but I have loved it so far.”

For Gavin, one of the great things about being a science teacher is seeing how excited the students are to come into class.

At the end of term one this year, Gavin went to Perth to see Richard Johnson, who is passionate about teaching students hands-on science.

“He did not even have books in his classroom, he just got students in to learn in a very hands-on way,” he said.

“I have found it really animates the kids, they get really excited when they make something which can do something, even something as simple as a catapult out of elastic bands.”

Gavin said even the older children really wanted to make things and get involved.

“I think it also really sticks with them, getting so hands-on and involved , and so I take this approach in my lessons,” he said.

“Engagement in a subject is the key and I have found the most engaging thing is for the students to make something which does something.

“We have made robotic hands, bath bombs, mini hovercrafts, slime and more and a lot of these inventions they get to take home too which is something else they seem to really enjoy.”

He said this more practical approach to science had received great feedback so far from parents and students alike.

“The kids cannot wait to get into the classroom, when I see them in the schoolyard or around town they always ask me what they get to do next,” he said.

“Parents come up to me and tell me how much their children are loving science, including children who have never really shown an interest before and it is just so great to hear.”

An anonymous parent has nominated Gavin for the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award.

“It was really nice of someone to do, my life has just completely changed since I took on this role with the school,” Gavin said.

“I am pretty excited, it is only my first year doing this and I cannot wait to continue to built on the program, get better at my job and take on some more adventurous things.”

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