Lowanna’s Teacher of the Year finalist

Clean cut: Judith Stewart (red scarf) with her sustainability team. Photographs Zaida Glibanovic



LOWANNA College teacher Judith Stewart has been announced as a Teacher of the Year finalist for the 2023 ResourceSmart Schools Awards.

Lowanna College is one of 23 schools and 35 finalists vying for an award in Victoria’s largest celebration for primary and secondary school students, teachers and school volunteers taking sustainability action.

Ms Stewart has been nominated for her enthusiasm for sustainability, she has been behind the school’s sustainable initiatives, which include the making of native bee hotels in woodwork classes and the construction of an outdoor classroom in the school vegetable garden and orchard area.

This is not the first time that Ms Stewart has been nominated as a finalist for the same award.

In 2020, Ms Stewart was recognised by the ResourceSmart School Awards for her role in creating a student-led garden, one of the first of its kind for secondary schools in the area.

The ResourceSmart Schools Awards is Victoria’s largest sustainability celebration for primary and secondary school students, teachers and school volunteers taking remarkable sustainability action.

The theme for 2023 was ‘achieving great things’ where no action is too small.

As the sustainability coordinator at Lowanna since 2013, Ms Stewart has dedicated her efforts to actions both great and small.

She has headed many initiatives, from organising and arranging foster farm animals during winter to a new student program called the green tradies, where students receive hands-on learning in the outdoor classroom and learn ways to live more consciously in the environment.

Ms Stewart said, “It’s scary…it’s a lot of responsibility to be nominated a finalist.”

When asked about the effects of climate change, Ms Stewart said she was concerned and “wanted to do something about it”, hence why she feels a personal responsibility to advocate for sustainability.

Adam Hogan, Lowanna College’s principal, spoke of Ms Stewart’s passion for sustainability.

“Judy Stewart is incredibly passionate about sustainability and builds that passion for sustainability and passion in our students, he said.

“She has dedicated much of her time to running sessions for students after school for most of the last year,” he said.

“I think (sustainability) is quite a relevant and pertinent topic for the current generation and looking into the future, so we do our best to have a sustainable practice around the school but also to educate our students.”

The leadership program among the green tradies program saw students taught “how to be leaders that no matter what happens they’re not frightened, they got their first aid certificates, fire emergency training and other things too,” said Ms Stewart.

Speaking to Ms Stewart’s year 9 students Jemma Web and Matilda Smith, they both said how much they loved learning about sustainability.

“With the green tradies program, what we did was we pretty much helped with the environment we pretty much planted new things, we figured out what can be planted in what season, and it was a nice way to get out of class when you felt a bit overwhelmed,” Jemma said.

“It was really fun. We did a whole class excursion, and we learnt about sustainable living and stuff like that, so like not using so much water when you don’t have to and switching to solar power,” Matilda said.

When Ms Stewart attended a World Zayed Sustainability Prize Expo she brought back her learnings to the students.

“We talked about water catchment, constant water supply, healthy food, and growing our own food,” Ms Stewart said.

“We have seasonal planting here; our season planting is opposite to, say, Europe and Australians and most kids have no idea that you have to plant things at different times every year, crop rotation, nutrients for the soil, we do compost here (at Lowanna College), we get food scraps from the kids and the kitchens, and then it goes to the gardens.

Ms Stewart organised a sustainability Expo with the local community in May last year, which included workshops about beekeeping and free-range eggs, agriculture, fermenting, gardening and agriculture with a bake sale and sausage sizzle.

If Ms Stewart wasn’t busy enough planning for class and marking papers, the Expo was completely voluntary work.

“I put in 300 hours to do that (the expo)… we ran it with the community with Newborough scouts and Girl Guides, we had all the community we could find that provided sustainable things like it was solar, it was plant-based, it was mending clothing all those sorts of things, to re-use and grow.”

Ms Stewart will continue to pursue her passion for sustainability by making green changes to the school’s routine, raising awareness and educating, but most importantly, Ms Stewart will continue to inspire the next generation of green thumbs, scientists and sustainability activists.

Green thumbs: Principal Adam Hogan (left) and Judith Stewart (red scarf) with Lowanna’s sustainability leadership program participants.