Murdoch teacher and alumnus named as Australian of the Year finalists

November 1, 2012

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After School Program pupil Sam Alsop with Professor Jennifer Searcy

Murdoch University Adjunct Professor Jennifer Searcy has been named as a state finalist in the 2013 Senior Australian of the Year awards for her inspiring work with school pupils who love science and mathematics.

And Murdoch University Alumnus Professor Kim Scott has been named as a state finalist in the Australian of the Year category for his award-winning novels and poetry.

As a full-time teaching volunteer at the University for half of its lifetime and a donor, Professor Searcy has been running an after-school and holiday tuition program on campus since 2001, helping children aged 10 to 17 realise their potential in maths and science.

“I want to provide children with the opportunity to be intellectual athletes,” said Professor Searcy, who is from Nedlands.

“Intellectual athletes need challenges and a sense of achievement, just like an athlete in any other sport. All I do is create the opportunity for them to give their best effort and work hard at it.

“Any child is welcome to our After School Program, all they have to do is be reasonably behaved and keen to learn.  Our Program accepts any child who wants to be there and is willing to work hard.”

Professor Searcy said the classes tended to be noisy because the pupils were having fun and helping each other solve the problems set for them.
Senior university students and adults were there to guide them and those who were most able could study for University units while still at school.

“Over the years we’ve had continuing success, and this year three of our students who’ve been with us since the age of 10 obtained High Distinctions in both the Open Universities Australia unit Introduction to Chemistry, and the Murdoch University unit Chemical Principles,” said Professor Searcy.

“One of the three came first in the nation at the National Qualifying Examination for the Chemistry Olympiad and all three will be going to the prestigious summer school at Monash University where they will be trained for the Final Qualifying Examination which selects students to represent Australia in the International Olympiad next year, when it will be held in Moscow.”

Murdoch University awarded Professor Searcy a Senate Medal in 2001 for excellence beyond the call of duty and to recognise her voluntary service. A Vice Chancellor’s citation for excellence followed six years later.

In 2004 she was admitted to the rank of Fellow by the Australian College of Educators. Professor Searcy has also sponsored numerous academic awards for outstanding secondary and tertiary students.

Professor Scott’s achievement follows on from his two Miles Franklin Literary Awards for his novels That Deadman Dance and Benang.  He became the first Indigenous author to win the prize – Australia’s most prestigious literary award – in 2000 and he won it for a second time in 2011.

He graduated from Murdoch with a Bachelor of Arts (English and Comparative Literature) in 1979 and a Graduate Diploma of Education in 1984.

The Western Australia Awards will be announced in Perth on Saturday, November 24, at the Government House Ballroom.

Registration forms and information about the After School Program can be obtained by emailing Professor Searcy.

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