Meet The Science Teacher Taking Students To The Next Level

Dr Matthew Verdon
Photo: Naomi Giatas

Dr Matthew Verdon has a serious case of job satisfaction. He simply loves to teach.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of inquisitive minds to inspire at The Australian Science and Mathematics School where he works in a STEM Innovation Leaders role and curriculum leadership.

It’s no ordinary school. The motto is ‘Choose your own adventure’.

Located on the grounds of Flinders University, you won’t find traditional classrooms in the open-plan teaching space. It’s all about self-directed, collaborative learning and Matthew is constantly surprised by the year 10 to 12 students under his guidance.

“They’ve got so much creativity and potential. Sometimes they surprise you with a really perceptive question. It’s incredible,” he says.

Matthew was born in Wollongong and completed a PhD in theoretical plasma physics at the University of Sydney before deciding his passion was education.

“It’s a chance to show them that there’s a whole lot of stuff out there you don’t know, and that’s a great thing. Have a go.”

“My parents always valued education. They always wanted me to go to university but there was never any pressure on me to do anything in particular. They just wanted me to learn and knew something would come of that.”

As a nipper, Matt took part in many international competitions and now balances his day job with his other role as physics program director of the Australian Science Olympiads (it’s like the Olympic Games for science students.).

He accompanies bright young sparks to compete in faraway places.

“My role is to get them there and back safely. The trips are a really interesting experience for the students because they’ve got specific interests and might not have found a heap of people [in life] to connect with.

“It’s a chance to show them that there’s a whole lot of stuff out there you don’t know, and that’s a great thing. Have a go.”

He is passionate about showing young people that perfection isn’t everything.

“Okay, you might get it wrong but what have you learnt from this? In science, if you do something and it doesn’t work the way you expect, that’s fantastic. It’s a good thing.

“It’s about breaking down that perception of ‘you should only say something if you’re sure you’ve got it right’.”

Matthew is also an astrophysicist.

The view of the stars from his home in Mount Barker isn’t bad but when he’s not teaching he can usually be found chasing stars where the air (and view) is clear, or snapping nature.

He’s also got an impressive set of pipes and sings with choir Cantabile Singers.

Mostly though, he’s busy encouraging people to become learners.

“I’m increasingly passionate about education. The challenges and the rewards keep me coming to work every day.”

Smiley Fritz

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