'Giftedness does not just come from privilege’: Murdoch alumna awarded for accessible STEM teaching

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At 19 years old, Donna Buckley knew in her heart that she wanted to be a teacher.

She hadn’t always had the easiest time at school herself, and felt she could make a difference for young people who were struggling with similar situations. 

But as a single mother, her life was busy and she feared she might not have the time or flexibility to pursue higher education. 

That was until she learned about a one-week alternative entry program for single mothers offered at the time by Murdoch University. 

So, in 1994, filled with anticipation, she enrolled.

Little did she know at the time, this decision would lead her to a long and fulfilling teaching career, which would include her being awarded the 2023 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching. 

“I have been invited to be a part of a community that I never in my wildest dreams as a 19-year-old participating in that alternative entry program would have thought of,” Ms Buckley said.

... My life could have turned out a lot different if it were not for the options put in place when I was at Murdoch University from 1994 - 1999.”

Following her alternative entry course, Ms Buckley enrolled in the undergraduate course in mathematics and statistics, with a diploma in secondary education. 

She said the education course, which gave students one week in a primary school and another in a secondary school had “sealed the deal”. 

“High school teaching was the right career path for me.

“I felt I could give back and make a difference to some of the factors that disrupted my own schooling.”

Ms Buckley studied externally, which, pre-internet, meant doing readings at home and mailing her assignments in for marking. 

This allowed her to balance her life as a mother and student.

Now, Ms Buckley works as a teacher at John Curtin College of the Arts, and inspires students with diverse backgrounds to think creatively about mathematics.

She has created a Maths Talent Quest, launched a project on sustainable travel and created project for year 9 students to explore science using Indigenous art. 

Ms Buckley said the recognition that has come with the Prime Minister’s Prize has made her truly see the value of her profession by not only academics, but government leaders of Australia. 

As she continues to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals, Ms Buckley’s focus stays firmly on making sure her students experience engaging and accessible lessons, no matter their background. 

“One of my core values is that giftedness does not just come from a place of privilege...” Ms Buckley said.

One teacher can make a difference; we all have one teacher we would like to thank for making a difference to our lives.”  

Today, Murdoch University still offers a number of flexible pathways into University, to ensure students from a range of backgrounds can access tertiary education. 

Feature image: DISR website.

To find out more about flexible pathway options, visit  the Murdoch University website
Posted on:

27 Oct 2023


General, Teaching, Alumni

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