MacGyver teacher earns national excellence award

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 01/11/2012
Gareth Bell
Supplied
APPLES FOR TEACHER: Freyberg High School teacher Gareth Bell has won a national teaching award.

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A Palmerston North school teacher and self-styled MacGyver has been rewarded for his eccentric approach to education.

Freyberg High School computing teacher Gareth Bell is one of 10 teachers nationwide to have been awarded a crystal apple and $2500.

Handpicked for the honour from a pool of more than 600 nominees, Mr Bell is a former Freyberg pupil who has since made a name for himself as a teacher at his old school as creator of the school's "MacGyver Club" which encourages pupils to use DIY techniques from the 1980s television series MacGyver to learn about science.

Every week of term one this year, a group of about 20 Freyberg High School pupils watched an episode of the hit show and then attempted a science experiment based on an idea gleaned from its plot, such as using dyed liquid and hairpins to make magnifying glasses and crafting pea-shooters out of paperclips.

Mr Bell was yesterday presented with the National Excellence in Teaching Award during a school assembly, much to his astonishment.

"I was shocked and overwhelmed and surprised, I wasn't sure what to feel, really," Mr Bell said. "I'm lucky to have such a supportive school where I can run new ideas, and include my personality into my teaching."

His use of digital technology in education won praise from the teaching award's judging panel, who noted his efforts had increased visitors to the school's website from 10,000 to 65,000 last year, in addition to a YouTube channel, MrBellFryberg which has since attracted more than 90,000 hits.

Mr Bell said his creative - and now award-winning - teaching approach had been inspired by the examples of his former teachers, some of whom now taught alongside him at Freyberg.

When told his pupils had nominated him for an award, Mr Bell was bashful.

"I said ‘don't bother, I don't need this award, I'm happy just doing my job'."

A free school breakfast, dance projects, and the creation of "computing week" by the young teacher couldn't help but win his students' favour.

So what will Mr Bell do with his crystal apple?

"I really haven't given it much thought - maybe I'll put it in the fruit bowl."

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- Manawatu Standard

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