With parents who were strong advocates for girls’ education, I grew up believing “girls could do anything”. I was really lucky to have that kind of influence in my life.
At the end of Year 12, I was awarded a bonded teacher education scholarship by the NSW Department of Education. This scholarship paid a stipend for my tertiary education and guaranteed a three-year teaching appointment in the NSW public school system. As a regional student, I accepted essentially to help pay the bills. After my initial training, I continued postgraduate studies in mathematics while I was teaching full-time. At the time, I thought that I would eventually move into the tertiary sector but I just loved teaching. The connections you make with students, parents and colleagues is, in my opinion, something that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Teaching has also opened up new worlds through travel. I worked in New York for over a decade and have met and worked with many fantastic people, some of whom remain my closest friends.
Mathematics is humanity’s tool for making sense of an uncertain universe. It’s a universal language that empowers us to find solutions in a world fraught with problems. It is so important to mentor young people to continue with mathematics. Particularly with so many carrying the misguided belief that knowledge isn’t necessary, either you can “Google it” or Wolfram Alpha will solve it for you. But maths fosters deep critical thinking and it’s crucial now more than ever.
I have had so many highlights in my career, but I would like to think that my greatest achievement is still to come, as there is always room for growth and improvement. This is what continues to drive me to learn and improve as an educator.
Teaching gives you a sense of pride that’s hard to explain. It is those moments when a student who has been grappling with a problem or concept finally makes the connections that make it all worthwhile. When you witness their sense of achievement and pride.
DR JANINE STEWART IS A SENIOR MATHEMATICS TEACHER AND YEAR 12 PATRON AT ST COLUMBA ANGLICAN SCHOOL, PORT MACQUARIE. IN 2016 SHE RECEIVED A CHOOSEMATHS TEACHING AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE. JANINE HAS A PhD IN THE AREA OF NONLINEAR PARTIAL DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS.