Outstanding Teachers - Teresa Barlow, Science Faculty Co-ordinator, ACG Sunderland
What is your teaching philosophy?
As a science and biology teacher, my philosophy is to teach through experiments - either in the classroom or in the field. I make sure my experiments are all exciting. Students love dissecting pig trotters, flame tests, osmosis in potatoes - and anything with the Bunsen burner.
What makes science a great subject?
Science is relevant in all aspects of life. It stimulates curiosity and interest, helps explain events from the distant past and it informs our futures.
What are the some of the qualities of an effective science teacher?
Enthusiasm and attention to detail. A sense of humour helps, and being from the North of England seems to have its benefits as well!
I became a teacher by accident. I did a triple degree, with the third option being education. Teaching was the first job I got and I like to see things through. I also think being a rock star or a submarine driver were out as career options.
What do you enjoy about teaching at ACG Sunderland?
We are a very strong family and community. Students thrive in this environment. Being in a small school means we know all the pupils by name.
What has been a highlight of your teaching career?
My career’s not over yet so the highlight may yet come, but feedback from students and parents makes the job worthwhile. For example, a student told me recently, ‘this is the best thing I have done all year’. Or when a parent tells me, ‘My child loves science, they love your lessons.’
What do you aim to achieve as an educator?
I aim to enthuse students about science and its unlimited possibilities and opportunities, to help them develop skills for lifelong learning and life skills to help them out in the world of work. Science impacts on us every day - hopefully students are able to understand ideas so that they can make more informed decisions and be more aware of their environment. Everyone also needs some scientific understanding so that they are able to question and challenge some of the pseudo- scientific marketing that so many people believe and spend their hard earned cash on.
What are your thoughts on the benefits of independent schooling?
At heart I am a socialist, and I would like to think that our state systems deliver the best education they can to our young people. In reality, classrooms are crowded and staff are often not supported in their role as educators. Independent schools are able to keep their class sizes manageable so that no students are left out.
I have always worked in ‘smaller’ schools and I enjoy the rapport that staff have with the pupils. I am a ‘scientist’ who teaches, not a teacher who delivers some science - so I have a slightly different view on my role in school. At ACG Sunderland I feel that I can educate. Here in particular we have parents who work hard to provide their children with the education we offer. Independent education has a lot of parents who support staff in their endeavours. Our students are more appreciative of their parent’s choices and support each other. I am not sure if this is a peculiarity to our location or to New Zealand in general. It is very refreshing to see students applaud other student’s achievements and be genuinely pleased for them.
In your role as a teacher, what do you most want for your students?
As a teacher I expect students to try their best… nothing more really. Everyone works at a different pace and level with different abilities. It is very rewarding to see students ‘strive’ to grapple with particular concepts that they find challenging, as you know that they have the right life skills to succeed out in the world of work.