MARGARET Watts has been recognised for her work in the education sector, during a career spanning almost half a century, with an award for outstanding lifetime achievement.
The New South Wales science educator has received many plaudits over the years, but says the Australian Professional Teachers Association (APTA) accolade is particularly special.
“I was dead chuffed, is the right way to put it … to receive an award from your peers is very, very special,” Watts says.
Recalling her own school years in the early 60s, Watts says she was always interested in science and the natural world but had no real ideas about a possible career.
“They used to give you vocational guidance tests … and I can remember with the interview afterwards they said to me ‘you really aren’t suited to teaching, you could do any career in science but we wouldn’t advise you to be a teacher’.”
Thankfully for the thousands of students and educators who’ve benefitted from her expertise, she didn’t take that advice to heart.
Awarding The Dorothy Hoddinott Medal for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement, APTA says Watts has continually undertaken professional roles above and beyond those required.
These include president of the Science Teachers’ Association NSW, a councillor with the Australian Science Teachers’ Association, helping to develop the Australian Curriculum and working with parent and teacher organisations.
Watts says, prior to joining a professional association in the 70s after a stint working in schools in London, she was always involved in local teacher groups and professional development.
“… sharing ideas and getting ideas and hearing what’s happening with your peers in other schools and in other sectors is really crucial to just moving your base of knowledge on.”
After being diagnosed with breast cancer last year, Watts decided to give up her association leadership roles. “I’ve been given a 60 to 70 per cent chance of no recurrence,” she says.
As soon as she started to recover from a course of treatment that lasted nearly a year, Watts was eager to offer her expertise again.
“So, in the last little while I’ve taken on convening conferences for the New South Wales Science Teachers Association [for 2014]. That’s the sort of thing I intend to do now [from home], rather than be face-to-face in meetings.”
Watts’ fellow APTA award winners were: Early Career Teachers Award – Benjamin Anderson (Spanish Teachers’ Association of SA); Innovative Associations – SA German Teachers’ Association, English Teachers’ Association NSW, Mathematical Association of NSW, Primary Teachers’ Network; Exceptional Service to APTA – Phil Callen (SA), Anne Tumak (WA); APTA Meritorious Contribution to the Profession – Maxine Cavaggion (SA), Dr Louise McCuaig (Qld), Miriam McDonald (NT), Charles Morgan (Tas), Christine Topfer (Tas), Lindsay Swan (NSW), John Sarev (NT).