Regina Menz – Science Teacher at O’Connor

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Regina Menz has been the science teacher at O’Connor for almost ten years, and her passion for the subject is very obvious in this interview. She explains why Science Week is particularly exciting for both herself and her students.

When, where and why did you study to become a science teacher?

From as early as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher, but it wasn’t until I attended high school that I discovered science. I was curious to find out how things work and why things happen.

Science helped me seek the answers to my questions. I did look into other science related careers, such as pharmacy and science research, but I really wanted to be a teacher – so a science teacher is what I became. It was a great decision.

I studied at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, doing a four year education degree specialising in science, in particular, chemistry and physics. I met my husband, Paul Frazier, while studying at Charles Sturt Uni. We married in 1993 and have three children: Kate and Tom, who attend O’Connor, and Sam, who is at St Mary’s Primary School.

I have been lucky to teach in a variety of schools. I started teaching at Gundagai High School in 1990, and since then I have taught in Melbourne, Darwin and Wagga Wagga. I have taught in state, independent and Catholic schools.

How long have you been teaching science at O’Connor; what’s a typical day at work?

I have been teaching at O’Connor since 2003. We moved to Armidale in January 2003, and I worked as a casual teacher. I was offered a position in 2004, job-sharing with Katherine Harris. This was a perfect with a young family. I have been working full-time since 2007 and have been Science Coordinator since 2010.

A typical day? Well, as a teacher, nothing is typical. Mostly I start with a meeting and then have 15 minutes with my pastoral group – a Year 8 group where we share what is happening around the school and help with issues and concerns raised, as well as celebrating student successes. It is then straight into teaching.

Currently, my focus is on preparing the Year 12 students for the HSC exams. I do love having a junior science class, when we can get in and do fun experiments. Last week, it was modelling rock formation by making honeycomb (lava!) and rocky road (sedimentary rocks). Lunchtime involves helping students in Science Help, where students can come and get extra help with their science studies. After school, it can be more meetings or coaching the O’Connor netball team, or running my own children to various events. After the afternoon run around, I generally hit the computer to plan lessons and activities and do some marking.

We hear that you have some interesting extracurricular activities?

We are very proud of the extra activities on offer in science at O’Connor. Our biggest event is our Science Week Celebrations. We have been celebrating Science Week since 2004, and every year it gets bigger.

This year, our students from Years 7 to 11 were involved in running fun science experiments at Armidale City Public School for Year 3 – 6 students and at St Mary’s Primary School for Kindergarten to Year 6 students. Some of the experiments we ran were making slime, a heart dissection, and lots of activities to do with sound and light.

We also had five scientists come and talk to our Year 10 – 12 students about careers in science. As well as all that, we had daily quizzes for staff and students about science, where great prizes were awarded.

Other extra activities that students at O’Connor are involved in are The National Youth Science Forum, PISCE Student Scholarship Program, Science Experience Camp at UNE, TAS Forensic Science Camp, Science and Engineering Challenge, UNE Science Investigation Awards, Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) Titration Competition (which I run at UNE on behalf of RACI), Women in Engineering Weekend, University of Western Sydney Engineering Camp, Australian National Chemistry Competition, and many more.

We gratefully acknowledge the support that the Rotary Club offers our students to help meet the costs of some of these camps and opportunities. The Rotary club provides funding to help students attend these exciting opportunities.

Who from O’Connor is involved in the next Nobel Prize Presentation?

We are extremely happy for one of our Year 12 students, Emily Hull, who attended the National Youth Science Forum in Perth early this year. Emily applied for the international program associated with the NYSF and was selected as one of only two Australian students to attend the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS).

As part of this program, Emily attends the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall and has the opportunity to meet with Nobel Laureates. With its links to the Nobel Prizes, the SIYSS is considered the most prestigious youth science event in the world.

Emily also presents her own research project at the SIYSS. Emily is currently working with Professor David Lamb from UNE on her project. She is researching and experimenting with optical fibres and their use as part of the NBN. We are very appreciative to Dave for his work with Emily. It is fantastic to be able to build strong relationships between schools and universities.

Highlights of your teaching career?

I have been lucky to have many highlights. Nothing beats the look when a student ‘gets it’, and I always look forward with anticipation to see how our students go in the HSC … but really it is when ex students come back and thank you for your efforts and encouragement that is a real highlight.

I was honoured this year to be a recipient of ‘Spirit of Catholic Education’ Award for the Diocese of Armidale. These awards were presented during Catholic Education week.

The award I received was for outstanding achievement and contribution to Catholic Education for an experienced teacher. It was great to be rewarded for what I love doing – teaching.

Why do you enjoy teaching at O’Connor?

O’Connor is a great school. It offers such a broad range of subjects and extracurricular activities. The focus is on developing the whole student – academic, spiritual, cultural and sporting. I love the community of O’Connor; the students are always keen to be involved, and you only have to ask and students help out. The way the students respond to Science Week, teaching and encouraging the primary school students, is extremely rewarding.

O’Connor has a fantastic staff who make it fun to come to work, and they are supportive of each other. My children, Kate and Tom, enjoy it, and Sam can’t wait to come to O’Connor next year!

Thanks Regina.

This story was published in issue 65 of the New England Focus

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