WHEN you have a passion for the environment like Tracey Gray, the south-west of Victoria is as good as place as any to call home.
Originally from Melbourne, Ms Gray made the decision to pursue her tertiary education many miles away from the hustle and bustle of her home city.
She enrolled at Deakin University in Warrnambool where she completed a degree in aquatic science.
It was from this solid base that Ms Gray began to use her considerable knowledge about the environment to make a difference.
She quickly immersed herself in spreading the word about caring for the natural world, delivering environmental education programs in schools across the area.
Any plans to return to Melbourne to live disappeared off the radar as she continued to passionately carry out her work for the next 16 years, gaining an even deeper pool of knowledge on the south-west environment.
Eight years ago she began spending time at the Port Fairy Consolidated School, working with pupils on several projects.
Two years after starting at the school Ms Gray took on the role as the environmental science teacher, something she said was a logical next step in her career.
Since then she has taught her subject to all classes from prep to grade 6.
“Having worked in schools for so long I knew my way around and I was ready to take on that role,” Ms Gray said.
“I have a desire to help the children share and experience the wonders of the natural ecosystems where we live.
“It is easy to forget sometimes just how amazing the environment around us is and Port Fairy has such a diverse environment for the children to learn about.”
The past six years have brought with it many highs for Ms Gray. She has used her skill in the teaching role to help not just Port Fairy Consolidated School but other schools both nationally and internationally through her input to professional development programs.
Ms Gray’s work hit the headlines late last year when she won a major state prize.
She was nominated by her school for an award at the Sustainability Victoria ResourceSmart Schools Awards.
Nominees had to go through an interview process with the award judges.
Ms Gray was one of three finalists in the category of primary school teacher of the year for educating excellence in sustainability and science.
The judges decided that her dedication to her work and her ability to impart her knowledge of the local environment and identify new projects made her a deserving winner.
It carried plenty of merit, as about 1000 teachers from across the state were eligible to be nominated.