Victorian teachers foster budding environmental leaders

Published: 18 August 2020

Two Victorian teachers are leading the way in waste reduction, resource efficiency, and fostering student leadership.

Stephanie Young (Primary) and Judith Stewart (Secondary) were recently named the Teacher of the Year at the 2020 ResourceSmart Schools Awards for their commitment, passion and dedication to sustainability initiatives at their schools. You can read profiles of these two amazing teachers below.

Thank you to Bank First for sponsoring this category and their continued support for the ResourceSmart Schools Awards. The celebration of sustainable schools through the awards would not be possible without the support of our generous sponsors.

“As the Bank that exists for those in the community who support and inspire others, we’re proud to recognise the expertise and dedication displayed by Stephanie, Judith and their peers, in their ongoing commitment to building a more sustainable future. “Since 1972 Bank First has been a proud supporter of the education community through awards, sponsorships, partnerships and grants, and the Bank First Community Fund. We are proud to be an advocate for sustainability in the education community, through our continued support for the ResourceSmart School Awards. Congratulations to Stephanie, Judith and all finalists in the ResourceSmart School Awards!”
William Wolke, Chief Executive Officer – Bank First

Judith Stewart – Lowanna College

Judith Stewart from Lowanna College in Newborough was celebrated by an excited school community when she was named Secondary Teacher of the Year. “There was a flood of team messages, with everyone offering me their congratulations for the award. I genuinely felt honoured,” Judith says.

Judith has forged strong connections with community organisations. She organised a Green Tradies program with community volunteers and developed a student-led sustainable garden initiative.

The Green Tradies program allows students to work with volunteers to learn about gardening, composting, harvesting and cooking meals with produce from the school vegetable garden, teaching them about the entire food supply chain.

Judith spearheaded the Sustainable School Management Policy, the Green Purchasing Policy and the garden program, which teaches students how to plant seasonal vegetables using sustainable wicking beds. Students were so enthusiastic that they took some of the barrel gardens home.

“That outcome was probably what made me the happiest, knowing that students would be able to continue the gardening program in their own home. It’s valuable when you know that the wicking gardens are at least 50% more water efficient than traditional flat-bed gardens, so will be saving lots of water and money,” she said.

Her enthusiasm for sustainability spills into the curriculum, where she’s embedded sustainable technology into classroom activities, such as teaching students how to make saltwater battery and solar energy cars.

Judith fosters sustainability leadership in her students. She collaborated with students to run a school energy audit where students went from room to room, measuring the number of appliances, lights, light levels, heat levels, and heat and air losses.

Judith’s achievements at Lowanna College are truly commendable!

Pictured: Judith Stewart (centre) at the Lowanna College vegetable garden

Stephanie Young – St Columba’s Primary School

Stephanie Young, Primary Teacher of the Year, has played a pivotal role in the sustainability journey of St Columba’s Primary School in Elwood. In her role she has mentored student environment leaders, promoted school achievements and led engagement with the community.

I feel amazingly blessed to have the role of Sustainability Leader at our school and to see how passionate our school community is in trying to better our environment and our world!
Stephanie Young

Stephanie oversees a range of programs at St Columba’s, like the STEAM Clean the Bay Program, Take 3 for the Sea, the kitchen garden classroom and No Waste Wednesdays.

She has been instrumental in increasing resource efficiency and reducing waste on campus through nude food days and the introduction of e-waste disposal. As a result, the school’s general waste is kept to less than three wheelie bins per week!

Stephanie’s leadership within the community has ensured the school is actively engaged in volunteer opportunities in the local area. This has developed a strong sustainability spirit at St Columba’s – which is in turn fostering sustainability leadership amongst students.

“We are so lucky to have the support of our very talented volunteer Green Team and the Port Phillip Eco Centre,” Stephanie says. “They are the enthusiastic and passionate backbone to our sustainability success, and they work alongside myself and our school community in raising awareness, funds and volunteering their time to work on sustainability projects at our school.”

Pictured: Stephanie Young

Find out more

Read more about the winners of the 2020 ResourceSmart Schools Awards.

*Photos in this article were taken prior to the introduction of social distancing and face coverings in Victoria.