An Indian-origin teacher in Australia has received the 2022 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in secondary schools.
Melbourne-based Veena Nair, who is ViewBank College’s Head of Technology and STEAM project leader, has been awarded for demonstrating practical application of STEAM to students, and how they can use their skills to make a real impact in the world.
“To be recognised in the Prime Minister’s prizes for science, I am deeply humbled. I am very grateful to my school, to my colleagues, to my students, and to my family,” Nair said in a video message.
“Many people know about STEM — science, technology, engineering and maths, but STEAM is with an A, which is for Art. Art brings in out of the box thinking, and it brings in creativity because students need steam skills to innovate, to become resilient and to take risks,” she said.
As a leading educator in STEAM, Nair has more than 20 years of experience in teaching science-based subjects across India, the United Arab Emirates, and now Australia.
Through her work, she has increased the number of students who receive first round offers to study engineering and technology subjects at university, especially young women and students from diverse backgrounds.
Nair began her teaching career in Mumbai, where she provided computers to low socio-economic schools and taught students how to code.
Nair’s students participate in the Swinburne Youth Space Innovation Challenge — a 10-week program that sees secondary students competing to create the best experiment to launch into space.
The winning project is then sent to the International Space Station. She also supports the Young Persons’ Plan for the Planet program, a STEM-based enterprise development program that gives students the opportunity to engage with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as changemakers at a global level.
Via this program, she has led a team of Australian teachers to conduct STEAM workshops for teachers in low socio-economic schools in Mumbai.
Nair is a BSc in Physics and a BEd in Science and Mathematics from the University of Mumbai and an MEd (maths education) from Deakin University.
She won the Educator of the Year Award by the Design and Technology Teachers’ Association of Australia in 2018.
The annual awards celebrate the contributions of 12 of the country’s leading scientists, innovators and science teachers.