“Everybody ought to be valued,” Dr Judith Grimes says, and it is this attitude that has permeated her work as a scientist, historian, author and teacher.
On Australia Day she was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal for service to education and local and family history.
Dr Grimes would like her OAM to highlight the good teachers do outside of the classroom, with one example being her work in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards from 1983 to 2016.
“It was all in your own time so when school holidays started you were out camping and on weekends you were training them [youth]. So very involved - many, many hours outside of school time for that program to operate.”
She sees the Duke of Edinburgh Awards as an ideal format for getting young people to, “test their own limits”.
She remembers fondly her first involvement with the awards being as a chaperone on a canoe journey down the Daly River in the Northern Territory.
“There were no towns, there were no stations, there were no people, there was just us and nature and I loved it.”
“We’d canoe all day. At the end of a day we’d go up on a bank and look down and see where a barramundi was hiding behind a submerged tree. We could throw our line out and catch our barramundi for tea that night.”
“The kids and I and the other adults, who were there – we just had a ball. It was wonderful.”
“All of that doesn’t even go in to the fact that Duke of Edinburgh participants were totally involved with serving their community, developing skills and keeping physically active.”
By having adventures which included sailing down the Queensland coast in tall ships or climbing mountains such as Mount Barney, the local youth were able to develop themselves and pursue further goals.
Participants have since gone on to achieve everything from representing Australia in their chosen sport to being sent to help in crisis zones due to their particular expertise.
Dr Grimes is proud of how some of these contributions started with the confidence the Duke of Edinburgh Awards helped the participants develop.
She remembers two teachers who increased her confidence and skills when she was in high school.
One was her Senior English teacher who, “showed an interest in how I wrote, took the time to talk to me as an individual. This gave me the confidence to write and express myself how I had not before”.
The other was her Maths teacher of four years at Darwin High School, Mrs Weise, whose, “enthusiasm in teaching maths made maths something I loved doing because of how she presented it”.
It was her impact that influenced Dr Grimes’ approach to teaching years later.
“One of my goals, every year that I taught, was to set the students up so that they ended up achieving better grades because they had more confidence in themselves and more confidence in what they were doing.”
To achieve this Judith would focus on the individual, where needed, just as her own teachers had.
“Number one, you treat them as people, you don’t look down on them, they are people of worth.”
“Point out what they’re doing that is good and they go ‘Oh, I didn’t realise that.’ And so you work on it. You get to know them and then you find out what you can do to help that person realise what they can do.”
After a lifetime in the profession she has some important advice for new teachers.
“As a beginning teacher you can get so involved with all the preparations you must do, it can overwhelm you when you first start. Every night you’re getting the next day’s classes ready and then you have exams and then and then…”
“So, my advice for a new teacher would be to take time out for yourself. Remember to take care of yourself, and then you’ll be a far more successful teacher”, she says.
By recognising the importance of each individual, Dr Judith Grimes OAM has made a lasting contribution to the community and continues to do so.