At a young age, Anna Ritzema was advised that her dream of being a doctor maybe wasn’t going to be a reality. At 17 she failed a biology test and her confidence plummeted.

Now, as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) specialist teacher at Tambrey Primary School in Karratha in the Pilbara region, Anna has turned those setbacks into her strengths, encouraging her students to make their own observations and gain confidence in their scientific skills.

Tambrey is a Pioneer School in the WA Department of Education’s STEM Enterprise program, which focuses on helping students navigate robotics, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

But Anna’s approach to STEM is much broader. Scientific concepts are taught through partnerships, highlighting the significance of science to her students’ everyday lives. Bushfire prevention, mining, robotic exploration and the building of traditional fish traps with Elders from the community.

Twice weekly, she runs a philanthropically-funded after-school science program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with an aptitude for STEM concepts. She maintains close contact with their families, driving the children home and following up if they are absent. The trust she has built is paying dividends; attendance is close to 100%.

“How I evaluate success and what I look for has changed, I place less emphasis on knowledge acquired quickly and more time to building knowledge on a strong framework of experience and practice.”