EXCELLENCE IN BEGINNING TO TEACH
A former Australian Defence Force electronics technician is now a state finalist in teaching awards due to the difference she is making in the lives of Townsville students.
St Patrick’s College Townsville Mathematics and STEM teacher Gayle Walkom, who served for almost 30 years in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), uses real-world experiences to engage her students in the classroom.
Outside the classroom she has led an extraordinary array of extracurricular opportunities, including workshops which have led to students receiving scholarships worth thousands of dollars.
Ms Walkom’s ability to inspire students, the support she provides and the difference she is making after just two years in the classroom, are just some of the reasons she is a finalist for this year’s Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award.
In the classroom, Ms Walkom works hard to integrate real-world elements into her lessons.
Her Year 9 STEM students worked with Minecraft exploring Artificial Intelligence, while her Year 10 Engineering class worked with Lego Mindstorms – remote-controlled programmable robots creating motorised boats. Students also built catapults and studied projectile motion in Olympic sports to better understand Physics.
Outside of the classroom, Ms Walkom is the College’s Opti-MINDS coordinator, has collaborated with the ADF to deliver #STEMLIKEAPATSGIRL workshops, and has facilitated entrepreneurial workshops with digital education company BOP Industries.
“BOP industries were fantastic, we've had guest presenters that came in to assist aspiring young entrepreneurs,” Ms Walkom said. “It helps them work through our design thinking process - they come up with an innovative idea and their young minds’ boundaries are pushed, linking their learning to real-life applications.” she said.
The BOP industries workshops led to her students participating in the #bigideaschallenge, which resulted in a presentation of their business ideas to the Townsville Mayor. The pitches were successful, with the Year 9 students winning a $2000 scholarship and Year 10s winning a $3000 scholarship prize to further develop their ideas.
Living in a garrison city like Townsville, Ms Walkom, who also served as a welfare officer for the ADF at 3rd Brigade, is passionate about her acting role as defence support mentor for students. From participating in before-school running clubs, mentoring students in the recruiting processes and to hosting morning teas for defence students, Ms Walkom goes the extra mile to improve her students' morale.
“It's being able to be that person that can provide support … who understands and raises awareness to colleagues of the unique needs of Defence families.
"Ultimately, my role is to ensure that students are focused and well cared for,” Ms Walkom said.
Her warm and supportive nature made a big difference to students last year, when many were learning from home across the Torres Strait, Papua New Guinea, the Cape and Western Queensland.
The TEACHX Awards winners will be announced on 28 October, the eve of World Teachers’ Day in Australia. Finalists receive $500, and winners $5000, for professional development.