Danielle Spencer

STEMM PROFILE: Danielle Spencer | Primary School Teacher & Science Coach |  Mitchelton State School | Mitchelton| QLD

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Danielle Spencer, National Winner BHP Billiton & CSIRO Science Teacher Awards 2016.  [Image: Mitchelton State School]

It was my love of science that allowed me to grow as a teacher. My favourite childhood game was playing science. My first chemistry set ended up with me in an eye patch for some weeks”

After a long and extensive career in paediatric nursing, I took a gamble and followed a childhood dream to become a primary school teacher. I am particularly passionate about teaching science and love that through science, children see themselves as learners. Science feeds a child’s innate curiosity and allows them to explore endless questions.

At Mitchelton State School, I currently teach Grade 6 four days a week, run an extra-curricular science club, a Robotics Club and act as a Science Coach one day a week. In my role as Science Coach I work collaboratively with other teachers with the aim to build teacher capacity in the delivery of inquiry-based learning in science.

If you have transitioned careers, what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

Transitioning careers was difficult although the biggest hurdle was me. I doubted I could ever be a teacher, as all I knew was nursing. It was my love of science that allowed me to grow as a teacher. My favourite childhood game was playing science. My first chemistry set ended up with me in an eye patch for some weeks.

What are you most proud of in your science career?

After completing a Graduate Certificate in Primary Science, I set up an extra-curricular science club at my school. SC@M (Science Club at Mitchie) is currently in its fifth year. SC@M is play-based experiential learning, each week we investigate a different phenomenon. Currently around 1:3 upper primary school children at Mitchelton State School have been involved in a science club.

Do you have a mentor? What is the most important advice they have given you?

In 2014, I was fortunate to be chosen as one of the delegates for the Australian Science Teachers Association Exchange to Japan. The people I shared this time with have become very special mentors for me and the experience was transformational. The best piece of advice I have received from them would be to believe in myself and to build strong networks.

If you could give one piece of advice to the current government what would it be?

Primary school science matters. Primary school is the place where we can hook a child onto the wonders of science but for us to be able to achieve this, we need to fund it. We need resource science, both the physical and human aspects. Primary school science should be a priority.

Favourite pastimes?

I am not sure if it’s a favourite yet, but one thing I am trying to achieve is to become a runner. It challenges me beyond anything else I have tried. It’s a love-hate relationship that allows me to set incredible personal challenges. Running clears my head and fills it at the same time.