Karratha STEM Centre Co-ordinator Anna Ritzema has been recognised for bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the forefront of Pilbara education.
Ms Ritzema was recently awarded a prestigious teaching fellowship award in the CBA Teaching Awards, the only WA teacher from a pool of 12 nationally to be selected.
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Through the Polly Farmer Foundation, Ms Ritzema runs STEM after-school programs for aboriginal students in years 5 and 6 from surrounding schools in Karratha and Dampier who show aptitude in the subject.
“We’ve seen amazing progress,” she said. Students who were not achieving well in science are now scoring A and B grades, and school attendance is almost 100 per cent.
As a teacher of STEM Ms Ritzema links science to everyday lives such as fishing, mining and bushfire prevention to spark children’s interest.
“My big passion is looking at how we develop a classroom-to-workplace program, so very much involving the local industry around here in Karratha, getting Rio Tinto, Woodside and local elders to come in and talk to the children and do projects with them,” she said.
No stranger to awards, Ms Ritzema won the science and engineering teacher of the year award by the Science Teachers’ Association of WA in December 2020.
Ms Ritzema said the award reinforced the significance of her work at the Polly Farmer Foundation.
“My highlights have been the children’s success, if we can get them passionate about STEM and learning at the youngest age we’ve got more hope of getting them through into the upper years when it gets a bit tougher and harder.”
Ms Ritzema’s passion for women in science was recognised on International Woman’s Day in March 2021 when we was named as a finalist in the 2020 WA Woman of Achievement Award, the only one from regional WA.
Ms Ritzema was nominated for her dedication to STEM education including helping Tambrey Primary School in Karratha become a STEM enterprise school, creating partnerships with local industry and organisations, and going out of her way to ensure students succeed in their education.
“I hope to be a role model for young females passionate about STEM and show them anything is possible,” she said.
“So many girls start off very much ambitious on the STEM path and along the way we lose girls in that field.”