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Posted by SASTA

on 22/02/2024

Ross Riach was our Secondary 2023 Credit Union SA / SASTA Outstanding Contribution to the Teaching of Science Award Winner. We asked him a few questions to get to know him a little better and share what inspires him as a teacher!

What inspired you to become a science teacher?

I was inspired (like many I’m sure) to become a teacher by several hugely influential teachers in my schooling and seeing the impact they had on so many lives. I chose science because I felt that was the most in demand aspect of education and I always loved Physics and engineering.

How do you keep your teaching methods fresh and engaging year after year to inspire your students?

As a bit of a nerd, I regularly read sci-fi and fantasy stories to inspire ideas as well as an overly active imagination. I love to think outside the box and cook up new and innovative ways to reinvent things. Connecting with my students helps me understand their interests, engagement hooks and passions to harness and inspire their love of learning.

Watch the full interview below!

I love my teaching experience for students to be an adventure. All good stories have a theme, plot/mission and storyline to follow-teaching science should be no different. By incorporating a mix of fantasy, imagination and gamification, student buy in can be maximised…everything else will follow from there.

Can you share a memorable "a-ha" moment you've witnessed in one of your students when they finally grasped a difficult scientific concept?

I will always remember one of my most personally influential students (Let’s just call her Maddy). After a semester long struggle in physics, Maddy turned her commitment around and sought after school support to catch up. I distinctly remember many after school sessions, watching the pieces fall into place and the stupid grin on my face as I got her to explain a concept back to me and marvel at how far she had come from being well below standard to nearly top of the class!

If you could travel back in time and attend any scientific discovery or experiment in history, which one would it be, and why?

I would love to jump back to July 1969 and witness the launch of Apollo 11, revolutionising the Space Industry and taking perhaps the greatest scientific leap mankind has made.

To be able to witness such an iconic event in real life and experience the rocket launch in person would be incredible.

What's the best piece of advice you've received or given as a science teacher that has had a lasting impact on your career?

The advice I was given early in my career was not to drop your standards to meet your students. Student cohort strengths will come and go, but maintaining your expectations of what should be achieved ensures you are still challenging your high-achieving students and lowering your expectations is difficult to recover from and creates an opportunity for complacency. Not to be confused with just being a “hard arse”, maintaining high expectations pushes students to meet you and the gratification they get when they do is so much more rewarding than a token achievement.

If you were to sum up your teaching philosophy in one sentence, what would it be?

Think differently, reinvent when needed and engagement should never be underestimated.

Have you thought about nominating yourself or a colleague for the 2024 Credit Union SA / SASTA Outstanding Contribution to the Teaching of Science Award? Find out more here. Nominations close 11 March.