The microbiologist teaching and leading in the NT

Three minutes
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

Caitlin Conway came to Teach for Australia (TFA) in 2014 with an Honours degree in microbiology. While she’d found working in science research engaging, the lab work was more isolating than she had anticipated. A career change into teaching was beckoning.

“I had a friend who had been selected for TFA already, who told me about the program,” Caitlin said.

“As I learned more about it, I decided this was a way to give back to others that was more in line with my personality than lab work.

“I wanted to work with people and feel like I was having a direct impact on the lives of others.”

After being accepted into TFA’s Leadership Development Program, Caitlin was placed at Northern Bay College in Geelong for her two years as an Associate, developing the STEM expertise that’s proven invaluable to her career.

In 2016, Caitlin entered TFA’s Teach to Lead program while also starting a Certificate of STEM education through the Victorian Government’s STEM Catalysts professional learning program.

Caitlin remained at Northern Bay until 2017. But at the end of her fourth year of teaching, she began to look for her next move.

“I was a little restless and ready for a bit of a change, and for the next step in my career” she said.

Caitlin began to consider the Northern Territory. While she had visited the NT before ⏤ on a tour with TFA Alumni, as well as a trip visiting a friend teaching in Katherine ⏤ she had never lived there.

Teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the Territory

Caitlin ConwayIn 2018, Caitlin relocated to Katherine to teach science and STEM to primary students, before a dedicated STEM role within the NT Department of Education caught her eye.

“It was the first time I’d read a job description and thought it was written with my experiences in mind,” she said.

“I was excited at the thought of working with schools in a departmental role and getting a broader view of how STEM was taught in the Territory.”

For two years, Caitlin travelled throughout the NT, delivering professional learning and workshops, meeting different teachers and getting a sense of what was and wasn’t happening in science education and teaching in the Territory.

“One of the initiatives I was really excited to see starting was ‘Two-Way Science’- a way of teaching science with a two-way learning lens – looking at how western science knowledge and Indigenous ecological knowledges complement each other,” Caitlin said.

“We know that Indigenous communities have been studying science for thousands of years,” she says.

“Two-way learning became a way for us to engage with Indigenous communities and students in a way that hasn’t necessarily been recognised formally before.

“I feel so fortunate to have that experience as part of my role.”


In 2021, Caitlin was offered the Northern Territory Manager role at TFA.

“This job was definitely not on my radar but I’m so glad I was encouraged to apply for it. There’s a much smaller TFA community in the territory – as opposed to Victoria – and with most people relocating to here for work it creates an extra layer of connection.”

Within the new role, Caitlin splits her time coaching second year Associates, managing the territory program, meeting with schools and liaising with the Department of Education and the NT Teacher Registration Board to make sure Associates are looked after and relationships are strong.

She also works hard to ensure current Associates feel supported, alongside her three team members who bring a wealth of experience in coaching and working with territory schools, as well as helping to build and support the TFA community in NT.

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