Passion for science takes Dianne to new heights

Dianne Christenson big

A lifelong love of science has turned into a rewarding career as a teacher for 2016 Prime Minister's Science Teacher Prize winner Dianne Christenson.

“I just love science,” says Dianne, who studied a Graduate Certificate in Primary Science Teaching with Open Polytechnic and is the curriculum leader for science at Lower Hutt’s Koraunui School.

“Science is a lot of fun and I think learning needs to be fun for students,” Dianne says. “When learning is fun it’s more meaningful to kids and they remember what they have learnt.”

Dianne says science is a really important topic for young people to study.

“I think kids need to be able to question the validity of what they read and see,” she says. “They need to be able to ask questions like ‘is that real? And what’s the evidence?’

Giving it ago

Following a stint as a farmer and then as a geologist, Dianne decided to become a primary school teacher 15 years ago.

Dianne has been inspiring students at Koraunui School since 2005 and a few years ago decided to take the next step in her own education journey.

Along with a group of colleagues Dianne took on the challenge of completing a Graduate Certificate in Primary Science Teaching through online learning with Open Polytechnic.

“Enrolling in the qualification as a group was great because we all supported each other throughout our studies,” Dianne says. “It was a lot of hard work but doing it together made it better.

“The group of us would have meetings and discussions, which was really helpful.”

Dianne says while completing the certificate was hard work it was definitely worth it.

Having a supportive workplace and the flexibility of distance learning meant that Dianne was able to juggle full-time work and her studies.

“Studying by distance means that it fits around your life when you are working,” she says. “It gives you the freedom and flexibility to choose your study time.

“You can do some work and then come back to it when you have time.”

Trying new things

Completing the Graduate Certificate in Primary Science Teaching helped Dianne in the areas of science teaching that she was not very strong in.

“The courses that I completed gave me a really good grounding,” she says. “The courses have a really solid understanding of good pedagogy.

“There were multiple examples, including video clips, of good science pedagogy that were shown.

“That gave me a really great foundation for coming back into my own classroom and trying new things.”

Award winning

Receiving the 2016 Prime Minister's Science Teacher Prize during a ceremony at Parliament in March 2017 was very humbling, Dianne says.

To mark the win Dianne says a number of celebrations were held at Koraunui School.

“When I came back to school my students had decorated the classroom,” she says. “We later held an assembly and the students gave me a special certificate they had made.

“We also ran a community science night where we put on lots and lots of different science activities that we had been doing at school.

“We even broke out the plasma ball to celebrate.”

So has Dianne completed her education journey? Not yet, she says.

“I like learning,” Dianne says. “A big part of being a teacher is that you model being a student and you model being a lifelong learner.”

Other student profiles

  • Ann-Tapara-SMALL.jpg

    Gaining the Confidence to Succeed

    • Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology)

    Wanting the confidence to challenge herself and a career to provide for her children, Ann Tapara began her journey with a Bachelor of Applied Science through distance learning at Open Polytechnic, laying the foundation to later gaining a Masters degree and becoming a fully registered clinical psychologist.

    Read more

  • Fran-137-X-112.jpg

    Fran shifts up a gear

    From doubting her own abilities to launching a wellbeing programme for young women in Wellington - Open Polytechnic graduate Fran McEwen has come a long way since she dropped out of high school at the age of 16.

    Read more