A top teacher

Last week it was announced:

An Auckland secondary teacher, who has transformed the teaching of junior science by using new technology to create online lessons and inspiring students to higher levels of achievement, has won New Zealand’s top teaching prize.

, of , has created virtual science lessons to encourage students to think for themselves, learn at their own pace and use new technology, which he says tricks them into learning by having fun.

His outstanding teaching has won him the 2010 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize worth $150,000, with Steve receiving $50,000 and the remainder going to the Howick College.

The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes were introduced in 2009 to raise the profile and prestige of science among New Zealanders. The five prizes combine recognition and reward, with total prize money of $1 million spread across five awards.

The 41 year old joined Howick College as Head of Junior Science in 2005. Since then, he has rewritten all the junior science programmes and developed new resources including a wealth of activities, videos, worksheets and PowerPoint presentations.

The idea of rewriting junior science programmes and delivering them on a digital platform through the school’s intranet was fuelled by frustration with students falling behind with their work while away from school for sports tournaments, family commitments and holidays.

Through his ‘Virtual Classroom’, students can access their lessons at any time, extending their learning beyond the classroom and enabling them to study at times to suit. Netbooks, laptops and mobile phones replace pen and paper. Students can access resources, instantly message to share information or post questions, ask Steve for help and get instant feedback, all online. They can create cartoons, videos and digital posters to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.

Surveys of Steve’s students during the past three years show a significant increase in academic achievement, motivation, understanding of science and ability to think more creatively. The number of students achieving excellence in their end-of-unit tests has increased from three percent to 53 percent. …

“Those type of teachers are like gold and don’t come around very often,” says Mr Ropati. Steve is also involved in professional coaching and development, with his work helping to improve teaching practices throughout the school.

Steve has a Bachelor of Science (Hons) and a Masters in Education leadership and management. He was last year named a Microsoft Distinguished Teacher.

Isn’t that a great example of how one teacher can make a huge difference.

Teachers like Steve should be on at least $150,000 a year. Probably worth $200,000  a year.

He is obviously a rare find.

Sadly the entrenched interests are against which would allow a school to pay its best teachers enough to keep the top teachers in teaching.

I do not believe there should be a national scale for teachers pay. I think a school should be bulk funded and they should be able to pay the top teachers $150,000 and the bottom teachers $40,000.

We need a system with genuine flexibility.

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