School’s Out: Shelford Girls’ Grammar Science teacher Jim Kalfas

Jim Kalfas chose a different journey to become a science and mathematics teacher than many. He worked as a qualified dentist for 23 years before changing careers, inspired in part by his role as a basketball coach. He has been teaching since 2015, joining Shelford Girls’ Grammar this year.

Where did you attend school?

My journey through school began at Malvern Central School, otherwise known as Spring Road. I started there from prep through to year 8. I was very fortunate to attend Melbourne Boys’ High School for the remainder of secondary school. I then undertook a Bachelor of Science at Monash University (1987), completed a Bachelor of Dental Science (1991) at the University of Melbourne, a graduate certificate in accounting (2006) at Monash University and graduate certificate in teaching (2015) at the University of Melbourne. I am currently completing my Master of Teaching.

 

Photo: Greg Briggs

Photo: Greg Briggs

Your inspiration to be a teacher?

My inspiration to become a teacher has come from some of my past teachers who were unselfish with their time and dedicated to their chosen profession. At Melbourne Boys’ High School, one of my maths teachers, Mr Ganella, was one of the most giving of teachers. Nothing was too much trouble, especially if you were keen to learn. At university, one of my lecturers, Professor James McCluskey, was extremely supportive and helpful with advice. After 26 years, I am delighted that we still keep in touch.

Where does your love of science come from?

When I was younger, there was an eminent physicist called Professor Julius Sumner Miller who used to present on television. To this day I can vividly remember his catchphrase: “Why is it so?” This catchphrase has stayed with me for years, and probably explains why I try to find out why something works or doesn’t work.

What made you want to change your career?

I was a registered dentist for 23 years. During that time (the last 12 years), I used to coach children’s basketball. My oldest daughter started playing at Ripponlea Primary School, and they needed help. Another friend and I started coaching the year 4 team. I ended up obtaining my level one accreditation from Basketball Australia in 2010. I felt that if I was to help my daughter get better, I had to get better so I did the course. Having coached for so many years, I found that I enjoyed working with younger people and guiding and mentoring them. One thing led to another, and here I am teaching at Shelford.

Has what you learnt as a dentist helped you as a teacher?

Communication is the key to everything. When people attended for treatment, no decision was made without the informed consent of the client. It is no different with teaching. We are communicating with the next generation, and the message we deliver can and often does make all the difference.

Why Shelford?

This is my first year teaching at Shelford. I was alway keen to teach older students, in particular VCE level. When the chance came to work as a science/mathematics teacher at Shelford, I grabbed it with both hands. Whether you are a teacher or student at Shelford, you are part of a very special community. This is what a smaller school affords you.

What does your role involve?

At the moment, I teach year 8 and 9 science, year 11 further mathematics and year 11 and 12 physics. I am also taking GSV (Girls Sport Victoria) sports, having done tennis in term 1 and AFL 9s in term 2.

What has been your teaching highlight?

The most enjoyable moment in teaching is the “ahhhh” moment. That is the moment a concept or idea has been learnt by the student/s. As teachers, that is what we aim for. And it is a wonderful to see students in your care moving on to the next level of their educational journey.

Who inspires you in your work?

Once of the joys of working in team-based environments is that you get to work with and for some amazing people. In my first year of teaching, I had the pleasure of working under Steven Church who is now the head of Corio Campus at Geelong Grammar. Steven was a wonderful source of inspiration for me as he was very supportive of my transition into teaching. It was mentors like Steven who have helped me develop and continue to develop my teaching.

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