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Helen Moore

Helen teaches at Hikurangi Primary in Northland and has a dream to capture and retain the natural curiosity of children as they look at the world around them.

Helen MooreWhat do you do on an average work day?

At the moment I am on a six month placement with the Northland Regional Council through the Science Teaching Leadership Programme run by the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

This means that on an average day I can be working alongside one of the teams of scientists which are working to protect and enhance our hugely varied environment in Northland. One day I might be scrubbing rocks in streams for periphyton samples and the next heading out into the Bay of Islands to monitor coastal water quality.

I could be flying drones for habitat mapping on a Tuesday and helping to conduct a fish survey using electric fishing methods on a Wednesday. My days are varied and full of new experiences which is pretty exciting.

I also head down to Wellington on a regular basis to attend workshops to help us with skills we can take back to lead science in our schools when we return.

What did you study at school? And after high school?

In my 6th Form year at high school I studied all the sciences - Physics, Biology and Chemistry - as well as Maths and English. I had always been keen on science and my parents were always encouraging me to be curious and ask questions about what was happening around me.

After getting University Entrance I went straight to Waikato and completed a science qualification majoring in microbiology and biochemistry. I worked in a lab until I had children and then had a number of different jobs which fitted around raising my family and where I was living at the time.

Some thirty years later I returned to university to do a Bachelor of Teaching. I really enjoyed being back in the learning environment and have also just completed a postgraduate diploma in science teaching and leadership.

Helen monitoring fish with Regional Council

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

While I have been with the Regional Council, I have found some of the old skills coming back, especially when we are taking samples and analysing them, although the technology is much more advanced these days!

I think when you have a genuine passion for something such as science, then you tend to keep up with the trends and issues even when you are not directly in that environment. Even though my teaching degree got me into the profession, I think my life experiences and the postgraduate study has made a greater impact on the way I teach and the level of science my students engage in.

The STLP programme has also enhanced my learning and understanding about the Nature of Science and how it can be taught in the classroom.

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

I am constantly telling my students three things: you can be whatever you like as long as you are prepared to work for it; imagine waking up each day and saying “Yay, I’m going to work”; and don’t be afraid of changing your direction to try something new because nothing you learn is ever wasted.

Follow what excites you and keep an open mind because there are opportunities everywhere.

Helen with her students

What are some of your career highlights so far?

Being on the STLP placement is one of the highlights of my career so far. I have enjoyed being immersed in a science environment and also having the opportunity to be able to bounce ideas off the other participants when we meet up in Wellington.

The programme has made me more confident in my ability to lead science in my school and I am hoping that being able to contribute to our tamariki learning to become critical thinkers and effective citizens through science and technology will become my greatest achievement.

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?

When I think of how quickly technology has changed even in my own lifetime, it is hugely important that our children are given the opportunities to engage and develop in these areas.

As a country New Zealand has always punched above its weight in many areas and the STEM fields are no exception. With the rate of change growing exponentially, most career opportunities will be in this area and we need to make sure our future generations are able to compete on the world stage.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

Although I don’t feel that gender has any bearing on ability in any area, it is true that women are presently underrepresented in the STEM areas.

In today’s world women can bring a passion and practicality to the profession and offer an alternative way of looking at problems. By using those already succeeding in these fields as positive role models, we need to encourage more girls to break through the stereotypes and make their own unique contributions to discoveries yet to be made.

Helen with her family

Helen teaches at Hikurangi Primary in Northland and has a dream to capture and retain the natural curiosity of children as they look at the world around them.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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