Havelock North High School teacher Matthew McGovern is one of only two people in the region to receive a prestigious award for their work in education in 2017.

The head of the school's science department will travel to the United States this year on a Woolf Fisher Fellowship for his outstanding work in science education.

The late Sir Woolf Fisher, co-founder of Fisher and Paykel, was a passionate supporter of education in New Zealand, and in 1960 founded the Woolf Fisher Trust for the advancement of scientific and general education in New Zealand through fellowships and scholarships.

McGovern was taken aback upon hearing he was a successful recipient of the accolade and thankful to his school and the mystery person who nominated him.


"First of all, I was completely surprised. It's not something that you apply for; other people who remain anonymous nominate you."

Having grown up in the region, his passion for science grew after attending Napier Boys' High School and becoming Dux in 2002. His passion led him to study for a PhD in science at Otago University.

Before moving to Melbourne to gain his teaching qualifications and subsequently teaching around Australia, he was a scientist, achieving many accolades.

To this day, he credits his science teachers for inspiring him to do the same for others.

"For one I really enjoy teaching science and I just want to keep making science open and exciting to kids."

"There's still under-representation by different cultures and there's under-representation by females in science as well, so I would love to increase participation across the board with all those sort of kids, but get them enjoying it is the main thing; just get them loving it as much as I do."

McGovern will travel to the US to visit schools and universities, focusing on physics education.

Havelock North High School principal, Greg Fenton, who had an award himself many years ago, said his "first words to Matt were that this would be among the most valuable professional development he would ever get".


"The thing that excites me about Matt receiving the award is that a relatively young and highly motivated teacher is getting an opportunity to further learn and develop as a teacher by considering approaches to science education in another country.

"Sharing this knowledge with his colleagues and our students can only be good for all concerned."

Fenton said it was a "confirmation of the high quality of teachers we have at the school".

"While without question, Matt McGovern is an outstanding teacher and thoroughly deserves this award, he is part of a team of well qualified, caring and hard-working staff who ensure that the school culture is one where it is cool to succeed in all aspects of school life, especially in the area of learning," Fenton said.