Teacher’s top honour

Tessa Randello

Lowanna College teacher Judith Stewart was named this year’s Secondary Teacher of the Year at the ResourceSmart Schools awards.

The ResourceSmart School Awards celebrate the schools and teachers leading the way in sustainable practices.

Ms Stewart said she was emotional when she heard that she had won the award.

“When I heard them pronounce Lowanna wrong I thought that I hadn’t won it, it was very special to hear that I had,” she said.

Ms Stewart started a program at the Newborough-based school where students created wicking gardens after seeing a similar program at a primary school in Moe and was “amazed at how involved the kids were”.

Wicking garden beds water plants from below, similar to a self-watering pot, and minimise water usage.

“We started the wicking gardens four years ago… as far as I know this is the only one in secondary school,” Ms Stewart said.

“We have three volunteers who come in one day a week and one even donated a barbecue, so the volunteers teach students how to cook things that are coming out of the garden… it is all about cooking what you can find and it is all fresh.”

Ms Stewart said the students made spinach rolls, stir fry with their own bok choy and salad wraps from vegetables in the garden.

“I have been the sustainability coordinator at Lowanna since 2013 and it is all voluntary. I think it is really important and valuable to the kids,” she said.

“I still struggle to convince people that climate change is real but whether it is or it isn’t you still can’t afford to wait and decide we should be taking steps to make sure that if it exists we are doing something about it and that is what I am trying to do.”

Lowanna College principal Adam Hogan told The Express everyone at the school was very proud of Ms Stewart and “all that she has achieved in our on-site farm”.

“We’re passionate about supporting our students to learn how to create a sustainable world,” he said.

Ms Stewart ran a leadership for sustainability program, is currently in the process of conducting energy audits of the school, keeps chickens on the grounds and implemented a green tradies program.

“We got our first sustainability star from ResourceSmart Schools and Environment Education Victoria … that was because we finally put in place some policies that go with the school saying we will consider the environment as well as cost when we buy things,” she said.

“It was actually really hard yards to get that through because it is a government institution and cost is important, so I was really impressed that (he) did that … Adam is a fantastic principal, that change has happened since he started.”