Mr Nick Ward is a Chemistry teacher at Wesley College. Previously working as a Geochemist in the UK, Nick commenced his teaching career working in remote schools in Southern Africa.
Tell us about your teaching experience overseas.
I studied Chemistry at Bristol University, and after working as a geochemist for two years, I felt that needed a change. Upon seeing an advert in the New Scientist publication for volunteer teachers, I decided to join the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) program.
Within a couple of months, I was on a plane to Zimbabwe to teach at Kavaya Secondary School, which was a rural school in Northern Zimbabwe. The school was 60 km from the nearest tarmac road and had no running water or electricity. My accommodation consisted of a square room with a tin roof, and I used candles for lighting, and cooked my food on an open fire. Many of my evenings were spent sitting around the campsite comparing life stories with my Zimbabwean colleagues.
At the start of the school year, the students were instructed to come to school with a sickle and hoe to help clear the long grass from the soccer ovals. Students were taught by ‘stage rather than age’, so my Year 9 class consisted of students who were 13 – 23 years old. There were 40 students in a class, and we only had a small science office which contained some chemicals and glass wear which were all donated from overseas. The students were amazing workers, and they would come to my house afterschool to ask for more worksheets and questions to answer.
After some time, I managed to obtain some funding from the Belgium consulate to build a new classroom with desks and chairs, and a new tuckshop which sold food and drinks to raise funds for books. The local community helped to make the bricks and helped build the classroom.
It was an amazing experience and I would highly recommend it to any students after their degree. I learned so many life lessons from the from my time in Africa. The local people didn’t have much money but they were very close as families and were happier consequently.
Why should students choose to study science?
Science is a subject were people from the past have asked questions about life and found evidence through experimentation and collaboration to help answer those questions.. The same is true now with a world of social media and fake news. Scientific knowledge guides people to make informed decisions and positive changes to society and navigate through the world using data and information.
Why do you like being in the classroom?
I love sharing my passion for Chemistry, and watching students have that ‘lightbulb moment’ when they discover new things. It’s great to watch them increase their confidence in the subject. I also enjoy getting to know the students and sharing their weekly highlights inside and outside of the classroom with a few jokes!
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
When life flashes before your eyes, make sure there is plenty to see. The idea of saying ‘yes’ as often as possible, whether that be trying a new sport, or getting involved with many clubs or groups as possible. Give things a go!
What would you say to someone considering sending their child to Wesley?
Wesley is a fabulous and well-balanced school. It has amazing resources like the Mildred Manning Science Centre and there’s a high standard of teaching at Wesley. There are no closed doors at Wesley, and the key is to embrace these opportunities. Students leave Wesley with a huge set of skills and a strong network of friends.
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