FREMANTLE mathematics and cybersecurity teacher Donna Buckley got to take centre stage with the champions of Australian science on Monday after being awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for excellence in secondary school education.
Ms Buckley teaches at John Curtin College of the Arts and was recognised for inspiring students from diverse backgrounds to apply maths to real-world problems, and to consider a STEM career.
“Initiatives she has led include a Maths Talent Quest, encouraging her students to think creatively about mathematics, and a cohort of coders at the school as part of The Perth Girls’ Programming Network,” her commendation read.
“She has also established an accredited cybersecurity course in Western Australia to educate the next generation about ways to make our country more safe and secure in an online environment.”
Ms Buckley, who rubbed shoulders with professors who developed the first drug with the potential to treat Ross River Virus, transformed funnel-web spider venom into sustainable pesticide, discovered microbes live on air and created an entirely new scientific field, said it was “mind blowing” and humbling to be among their company.
“Celebrating my achievements as a teacher alongside the most accomplished scientists in Australia really showed me the difference that one inspirations teacher can make to our lives,” Ms Buckley said.
“So if you have a teacher who inspired you, I hope … you too will take time out of your busy day to thank that teacher too.”
Ms Buckley paid tribute to the Mathematical Association of WA, saying a conference in Bunbury during her graduate year had been life-changing.
“I met a group of puzzle-solving, music-loving people who love to play; I had found my tribe,” she said.
Prime minister Anthony Albanese said the recipients of the awards reflected the world-class quality of Australia’s science and research sector and the dedication of STEM teachers.
“It confirms that the future of Australian science is stronger than ever,” Mr Albanese said in a statement.