Gratnells names Science Technician of the Year 2020

The Gratnells Science Technician of the Year Award 2020 has been awarded to Stacey Wheeler from Mounts Bay Academy in Penzance, Cornwall.

Now in its twelfth year, the competition is open to science technicians working in Education across the world. The judging panel, consisting of esteemed industry professionals, look for evidence of individuals who go ‘above and beyond’ in their daily work - Science Technicians who embrace their work, enjoy the challenges and look to offer continuous improvement in the services they deliver.

The entry process was different this year, and entirely digital. Shortlisted applicants were then decided and were contacted by a member of the judging panel to hear more about their day to day work and special projects.

First place winner, Stacey, has been a science technician for 11 years. In her current school in Cornwall, she works as a lone technician supporting the school science department of 11 teachers over 6 six labs.

In addition to her hard work during school hours, Stacey also works closely with other schools and technicians in the local community. In Nottingham, and Cornwall where she works now, Stacey has spent lots of time setting up technician’s networks offering free training and CPD for other technicians, as well as offering the opportunity to share skills and equipment and build confidence. She has worked hard to build a community of technicians in Cornwall and the schools are now able to offer each other support. In her role as STEM Learning Associate Facilitator, Stacey has also won a significant amount of funding via various grants allowing for the set-up of different projects. She successfully ran an astronomy event for almost 100 local Beavers and Rainbows.

She also runs regular additional clubs for students to allow them to experience things they wouldn’t usually get to in lessons including CREST club, a weekly science club, a gardening and polytunnel club and offers regular open-door support meet-ups.

During the pandemic, Stacey has also been a great help to other schools and technicians in her community and beyond. She planned a five-hour course for STEM Learning on prep room management which has reached science technicians far and wide. Alongside this and while working from home, she finished three STEM club schemes of work on different subjects. She’s also worked with two local primary schools during lockdown sending them three practical activities a week to be delivered at home.  

The Science Technician of the Year presentation process will be different this year due to Covid-19, meaning that we won’t be able to present winners with their awards and prizes in person. During the online ASE conference in January, we will be hosting a short STOTY 2020 showcase sharing submitted entry photos and the hard work of many of this year’s applicants.

Stacey Wheeler commented “Thank you so much for choosing me for this. It really is such a nice surprise; it really has made my year! I think we all go into it thinking we will never win, but to be chosen really makes everything even more worthwhile. I hope awards such as this raise awareness of what we, as technicians, do in the education system. So many of us take on so much more than just our jobs roles where we can. It is such a difficult thing to fit in at times, especially with the high demand on technicians and the ever-mounting job pressure with losing techs and them not being replaced. I really hope the difference is noticed!”

Les Hall, Principal, Mounts Bay Academy added “Stacey has worked tirelessly to make Science learning at Mounts Bay Academy of the highest standard every day. Her work in an extra curricular capacity has led to an increased understanding of the impact of climate change on the environment and the Science behind it.”

Gratnells International Marketing Director, Richard Picking said, Our STOTY Award goes from strength to strength. In a difficult and disrupted year we have been overwhelmed by the quality of entries, and the enthusiasm shown by Science Technicians from all corners of the world. We would like to thank all Technicians for their continued support for practical science, and the interest they can inspire in young learners. Judging by the quality of our entries, we would see you all as winners.

This year’s runner up is Irene Gomes of Greig City Academy in London. A science technician for 17 years, Irene was recognised by the judging panel for her excellent work to support cross curricular access to science and STEM, as well as the hard work she has done to obtain funding to support these clubs.

The third-place winner for 2020 is Karen Giles of Aylesbury Grammar School in Buckinghamshire. She has spent 16 years as a science technician, she enjoys trying, testing and developing new things. Her commitment to her role and confidence in her work stood out to the judges.

Receiving special recognition this year is Grainne McAdam of Caister Academy in Great Yarmouth. The judges have granted her a Highly Commended award for her hard work during her 9 years as a science technician. She has worked to build a technician network and plans to launch a science club and pursue funding in the future.

For the first time this year, we are also awarding a winning team of Science Technicians. Patricio Vasquez-Aguilar and Sarah Linkman of Liverpool Life Sciences UTC are awarded for their brilliant display of team work and high-level of support given. They actively help students to improve lab skills across all subjects and support BTEC, GSCE and A-Level in a very technical lab environment. Although they work in different areas of the science department, together they share expertise, equipment and sometimes train one another in different techniques. As a team, their combined knowledge and dedication to their students makes them a real asset to their school.

The International Science Technician of the Year award is presented to Olivia Frost of Caloundra State High School in Caloundra, Australia. All of the judges recognised her for her close interaction with students and the work she does to inspire and develop them. She also trains student teachers and is skilled at managing experienced teachers. She does a huge amount to go above and beyond her day to day role and makes a real difference through the technicians network she has established.

Judges comments

"I was honoured to be one of the judges for this year’s STOTY and was blown away by the commitment, experience and dedication that those shortlisted exhibited. The level of technical expertise in many cases was not confined to the prep room but shared with other technicians across regional networks or through outreach in other schools. Many used their initiative to seek out grants to improve their science delivery and I was pleasantly surprised to see so many technicians working with other areas of their schools to spread the wonder of science and enrich the learning of students. Choosing the winners and runners-up was extremely difficult but I'd like to thank all the technicians who entered and showcased their dedication to the role, their expertise and their love of the subject. The enthusiasm shown by all those shortlisted is a credit to the profession." - Chris Galvin, Director - Preproom.org

"As a former award winner, it was a privilege to be on this year’s Gratnells Science Technician of the Year judging panel. The STOTY awards are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the amazing work science technicians do. Through this year’s awards we could celebrate not only individual technicians but International and technician teams too. All the short-listed entrants were of an excellent standard, all going above and beyond their role, in so many different but brilliant ways. Including gaining funding for enrichment, running clubs, presenting in class, entering competitions, cross curricular projects, primary outreach and organising local or regional technician networks. All these efforts have had a huge impact on students experience of practical science, within their own school and in some examples in regional and national levels too.
These amazing achievements made deciding the award winners an extremely difficult decision. All the short-listed entrants should have reason to celebrate, especially the winners, I am sure this will help raise their technician profile within school and beyond." - Paul Cook RSciTech Hon.FInstP, Senior Lead Technician - Ark Burlington Danes Academy

"It was a privilege to be part of the judging panel for the 2020 Science Technician of the Year Awards. I had the honour of interviewing each of the short-listed applicants during the judging process and I was blown away by the passion, commitment and high level of technical expertise exemplified by each candidate. Science Technicians are the bedrock of every successful science department, they play a critical role in every student's science education by leading or enabling high quality practical science experiences, supporting pupils and improving their results. All of the technicians I spoke to go above and beyond in their role, not only providing practical and technical expertise but also contributing more widely to the student experience. Science technicians run extra-curricular clubs, take teams of pupils to national competitions and work with other departments to support learning across the entire school. Technicians regularly work beyond their own schools, leading professional networks in their own regions, sharing their knowledge and expertise through CPD provision at both a local and national level. The STOTY awards seek to capture and celebrate the contribution made by science technicians. We certainly have a lot to celebrate this year with an outstanding field that made our job as judges very difficult. Congratulations to every single short-listed applicant and especially this year's winners." - Dr Katherine Forsey CSciTeach, Learning Rooms & STEM Consultant - Gratnells

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