Student stories

How to teach two years of science in one

Four minutes
Teach For Australia Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

In 2013, Teach For Australia met Sam Guempel-Crothers of Katherine High School in the Northern Territory.

Sam was a Year 10 student and his science teacher was Teach For Australia Alumna Kim Louwrens.

Then in her second year of teaching at Katherine High School, Kim’s science lessons had already had a huge impact on Sam. He had begun to think about continuing to study science beyond school, at university.

In 2015, Sam achieved one of the top ten ATAR scores in the Northern Territory. This included the maximum score in two of his subjects.

Now, he is studying medicine with the Northern Territory Medical Program in Darwin.

Watch this video to see how it all came about…

“Deciding to study medicine was a last minute decision,” said Sam.

“I always knew that I wanted to do something associated with science. When I was accepted in to the Northern Territory Medical Program though, it was too good of an opportunity to miss.”

“It opened up a whole new branch of science and knowledge that I was eager to explore,” he said.

In 2013, when Katherine High School faced the challenge of potentially only being able to offer Year 11 and 12 biology as a ‘distance’ subject, Sam and his classmates wrote letters requesting that it remain a face-to-face subject.

In the end, the school and students found a solution: Year 11 and 12 biology could be taught face-to-face but the students had to fast-track their learning.

Year 11 biology was taught in the second semester of Year 10 and Year 12 biology in Year 11. And Kim was their teacher.

“They smashed it!” Kim said.

“Sam’s class had the highest completion rate and the highest scores that the school had ever achieved for biology – and Sam’s score was just superb.”

In order to help her teach the subject in such a short amount of time, Kim worked hard to offer the students new opportunities.

They studied a university-level course taught by two of her professors from the University of Melbourne via the online platform Coursera and Kim sought to bring examples of science in practice into the classroom.


“As Katherine is three hours from the nearest large town, it’s hard to give students experiences linked to the outside world. Exposure to a range of careers is limited,” Kim said.

“I wanted my students to know that they have so many fantastic options.”

Over the course of the two years that she taught Sam’s class biology, Kim brought representatives from CSIRO and people working in genetic engineering into her classroom.

She also took students to a local RAAF base to explore engineering options and helped four students, including Sam, to be accepted into the Northern Territory Space School.

In the end, Kim’s passion for extending her students paid off and really helped Sam to work out what he wanted to do:

“It was during Kim’s early science classes and later in her biology classes that I really developed a passion for science and the desire to follow a career pathway that revolved around it as much as possible,” he said.

“The passion and enthusiasm with which Kim taught each and every class and directed towards each and every student was incredible. Her teaching style was unique, enjoyable and exceptionally effective. It’s an approach that has left a lasting impression on me to this day,” Sam said.

So far, Sam is really enjoying studying medicine. It’s challenging and demanding but he has found the content fascinating, especially as it opens up whole new areas of science.

In the future, Sam hopes to travel, taking full advantage of the opportunities that will be available to him as a medical practitioner.

And for Kim?

“This is the epitome of a proud teacher moment.”

“When Sam told me that he had decided to study medicine and become a doctor, I knew that it was a profession that he would thrive in,” she said.

“Sam has demonstrated time and again that he has the drive, grit and passion to excel.”

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