Cecil Andrews College STEM Coordinator John Townley has won a $45,000 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award in recognition of his success in increasing student engagement in STEM.
Presented by the Commonwealth Bank and education charity Schools Plus, the Awards are one of Australia’s most prestigious prizes for educators.
A key achievement for Mr Townley has been the creation of an innovative robotics program to engage more Aboriginal students in STEM.
He is also involved in the P-TECH Australia pilot program, which provides students with industry-supported pathways to STEM-related qualifications and local employment opportunities.
Mr Townley is one of the 12 new Teaching Fellows, who each received a prize valued at $45,000 to assist with their professional development, roll out a new education project in their school, and take part in an overseas study tour to a high-performing education system. The Teaching Fellows are also invited to apply for the Global Teacher Prize, which is valued at US$1 million.
Mr Townley says the Award is a “huge honour” and an “incredible opportunity.”
“Many disadvantaged students will benefit, and I will have the privilege of close interaction with some truly inspiring Australian educators,” Mr Townley says.
Approximately $35,000 of the prize money will provide valuable support for STEM-focused programs Mr Townley is involved with at Cecil Andrews College.
One program Mr Townley successfully established integrates Noongar culture and language with hands-on STEM skills.
“I saw that culture was central to young Indigenous people’s learning, and thought about how to harness that,” Mr Townley says.
Co-taught by Aboriginal Elders, remote-controlled racing cars just one of the fun projects: students learn about components, develop software skills, and build a racetrack that embodies the six seasons recognised by Noongar people.
Student engagement increased drastically, and what began as a lunchtime activity is now timetabled and making such an impact that Mr Townley is actively working with a network of 12 schools to enhance their capacity in STEM teaching.
As the college’s STEM Coordinator, Mr Townley is also heavily involved in Southern Perth P-TECH (Pathways in Technology). This program sees the school collaborate with P-TECH partners to provide students with pathways to STEM-related qualifications and employment opportunities in the Engineering, Information Technology and Business industries. Partners and supporters include Austal, Thales, Civmec, Datacom, South Metropolitan TAFE, Curtin University, Deloitte and HP.
Cecil Andrews College Principal Stella Jinman says she is proudly celebrating Mr Townley’s achievement and links his success to the college’s collaboration with the P-TECH industry and education partners.
The Australian Government funded P-TECH Australia pilot focuses on attracting young people, including Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islanders and other underrepresented cohorts, to engage with STEM industries.
The Government has engaged Skilling Australia Foundation to work with local stakeholders to implement P-TECH Australia learning programs at all pilot sites across the country.