Jasper Pengelly

Secondary School,
New South Wales

What inspired you to get into teaching?

My wife and I had just started a family and I was looking for a new career to be able to move away from the city into a rural setting. I was working as a research scientist with some teaching experience at university and didn't want to throw everything away and start again, so thought I would train as a high school science teacher. I also thought that it would be a good idea to get some practice and training in working with  teenagers before my own kids grew to that age! I was reminded fondly of some fantastic teachers I had experienced during primary and high school that inspired me into a lifetime love of learning and I thought it would be nice to return the favour and do some inspiring myself!

Why do you teach?

I teach because I enjoy it. I love the teaching moments when you see a student's eyes light up with new knowledge, particularly in a student who may not have thought that they were 'good' at science. I love watching a student progress at high school, from a wide-eyed Year 7 student to a confident Year 12 student, ready to take on the world. I particularly enjoy the constant opportunities to inspire a love of science in students from a rural setting. Growing up on the mid-north coast offers far fewer opportunities for students to really engage with science than a city education would. Showing my love of science and getting students excoited about the pathways around the world that they could take is a highlight of my job.

What's your stand out/most memorable teaching moment?

A few years ago an excellent English teacher friend and I started a lunchtime book club to encourage students to keep reading for fun - too many students stop reading when the pressures of high school and being a teenager hit! As a life-long avid reader of all things fantasy, it was great to suggest books and interact with students in a different setting to the classroom. After reading one book, my English teacher friend and I decided to write some fan fiction for fun without telling the book club students whose story was whose! This recently culminated in a school-wide voting competition on whose was the best story - which ended up with the loser (me) wearing a dolphin costume at our school assembly - a win for literacy!

Have you received a special keepsake from your student/s that you treasure?

A keepsake that means the world to me is a card from a former student I was fortunate enough to teach in a stellar chemistry class. The class was great, not because they were all amazing at chemistry, but because they all really helped each other out and it was difficult not to be proud of the adults that they would inevitably turn into. The card is simple, but it means a lot as the student passed away several years after leaving high school. He had such a bright future ahead of him that it was really sad, but I am glad that I got to be part of his time here.

What is your advice for new teachers or people considering a career in teaching?

Don't overthink what you are teaching with a complicated lesson plan. Often a simple approach is best, with a few key elements that you want them to walk away with. Trying to pack too much into a lesson seems to always come undone! I find that building relationships with the students is always the very best way to get them to learn the things you have to teach. If they respect you then they will listen and learn. If you are wondering if teaching is for you then consider not only the benefits you will have on the community but also the fun that you could have. Teaching is a challenge, but a fun one!

Headshot – Jasper Pengelly, looking at camera, smiling
Image of a person sitting at a computer desk wearing a shark costume

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