by NZ CATHOLIC staff
Doug Walker, the head of science at St Patrick’s College, Kilbirnie, has won the 2022 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher prize.
According to the college’s website, Mr Walker won the award for “building a large online following of students for his explosive experiments and exam paper tutorials, and establishing a network of teachers providing online classes”.
“Doug is fascinated by all disciplines of science, and enjoys ‘playing’ to gain a better understanding of phenomena,” the website stated.
“Although a biology teacher by degree, because of demand he is one of the growing number of non-specialist physics teachers in New Zealand and physics has become one of Doug’s passions. Although Doug will be the first to mention that he actually didn’t pass physics as a student!”
Mr Walker graduated with a BSc in Biology with first class honours at the University of Paisley, Scotland before going on to graduate with a Masters of Education in Science from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
The St Patrick’s College website noted that, “before any teaching commences, Doug devotes time to get to know his students first by finding out their interests, so that he can use the information to tailor topics, approaches, and questions wherever possible”.
“He has high expectations of himself and his students, and endeavours to create an environment in which all students feel comfortable and safe to ask questions or suggest solutions. He believes in his students and encourages them to be themselves.”
Mr Walker makes every effort to build interest in science with a wide variety of experiments and gadgets.
He also inspires students to engage with science beyond the classroom, leading field trips, promoting public lectures and competitions, bringing scientists into the classroom and visiting scientists and science educators outside of the classroom also.
Mr Walker has included new courses including pathways to University Entrance for students who were traditionally excluded from science beyond Year 11. There has been a 60 per cent increase in students taking science in the last seven years.
Mr Walker’s Level 3 Science course has also doubled, and the school had to increase it to a second class in 2020. His physics classes consistently get very high rates of Merit or Excellence in their external exams.
Mr Walker has been president of the New Zealand Association of Science Educators since 2021.
Photo: Doug Walker with students from St Patrick’s College, Kilbirnie at the award presentation.