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WA Beginning Teacher of the Year 2018

Ben Garnaut, Warwick Senior High School

Switching on interest in science

An impressive scar on the side of his head is a permanent reminder to Warwick Senior High School teacher Ben Garnaut of just how fortunate he is to live each day healthy and grateful for every opportunity.

At seven years old while he was learning to play golf with a friend, Ben was hit on the head with a golf club and required a craniectomy to relieve pressure on his brain. He spent two weeks in intensive care following the accident. 

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

A strong believer that every lesson is a journey of discovery, it is not surprising that while working as a geologist at an oil and gas mine he realised something compelling about himself.

“I was working on the mines as a FIFO geologist and was struggling to find any meaning or purpose in my job. I went on a holiday and during this time I had the epiphany that teaching would be a great job,” he recalls.

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

Ben had a range of different careers before finding his true calling including geology, landscaping and a coffee business, Higher Grounds, which he started with a friend who still runs it with his family. 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 says.

He first started at Warwick Senior High School as a student teacher in 2015 before graduating from teaching at Edith Cowan University in 2016. By 2017, he was winning awards. 

Ben won the Science Teachers Association of WA’s Jeff Cahill Early Career Teacher Award last year thanks to his tireless efforts for keeping students excited about science and is now the WA Beginning Teacher of the Year.

Each day Ben writes a ‘lesson goal’ on the whiteboard, clearly communicating to students the aim for the day’s work. He encourages the class to operate as a team and advocates for students to work together to achieve their goals. 

Associate principal Robyn Cleaver says Ben is an exceptional teacher and has a rare gift for making difficult topics easily understood.

“Ben has played a major role in curriculum development in science since his arrival at Warwick Senior High School. He demonstrates real skill in differentiating the curriculum to suit the needs of his students,” says Robyn.

“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.”

Ben’s inventive approach to teaching has also proven effective in physics with the number of students studying the course increasing in the two years he has been at the school. Almost 70 per cent of students have also received improved marks in the course.

His colleagues describe Ben as inspirational and as someone who challenges himself and others. He suggests alternatives to the way things have always been done at the school and often thinks of ways to improve his own teaching. His positive approach to life and exceptional relationship building skills have also been praised by staff.

“I try to inspire students before the learning starts,” Ben explains. “My inspiration for lessons comes from life outside of the classroom. 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.

“I think there is heaps of space within the curriculum to bring some relevant context and spice to a lesson.” 

“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. I hope they continue through life looking at the world with a sense of awe and inspiration as they follow their journey.”


WA Beginning Teacher of the Year 2018

Our beginning teachers are fresh and enthusiastic. They bring a new perspective to the classroom and the profession. They passionately teach students to become life-long learners and to show compassion.

Proudly sponsored by Edith Cowan University.

Winner:

  • Benjamin Garnaut, Warwick Senior High School

Finalists:

  • Chelsea Nolan, Mukinbudin District High School
  • Justin Van Staden, Narembeen District High School
  • Robert Woodward, John Forrest Secondary College