For Cowan, who also teaches English and digital literacy, Anzac Day is just that little bit more special, given her passion for Australian wartime and local history. 

This year’s recipient of the History Council of South Australia Award as Emerging South Australian Historian of the Year, her love of history started close to home.

“My mum was actually one of my history teachers when I was growing up,” she says.

“I guess it started with learning about World War II, you tend to learn about Anne Frank to kind of get that personal connection to the time.

“So I was fascinated from then on, and loved learning about personal stories related to wartime.”

Cowan’s grandfather had a treasured copy of the celebrated Charles Bean collation, The Anzac Book, that was actually put together in Gallipoli during that ill-fated World War I campaign and later distributed to men in the trenches on Europe’s western front.

“He actually gave that copy to me. It had belonged to his father and so just our family’s story really started to interest me as well.”

Cowan says her town’s local angle is also fascinating.

“I’m really lucky in that the town itself is actually named after a soldier who died in World War I.

“There are actually few towns in the world that have that honour. He’s the only serviceman in South Australia to have a town named after him. His name was Albert Lock.”

From reception, students at the school know that their town is quite unique.

“And by the time they get to Year 9, they’re really interested to learn about his journey – his is kind of the lens we use to talk about how World War I began and the journey that he would have taken from being in Australia to go and fight on the Western Front.”

In 2015, Cowan’s students were the SA winners of the secondary school category of the Anzac Day Schools’ Awards and last year her passion for history saw her visit Vietnam twice, once as a chaperone for student winners of the Premier’s Anzac Spirit School Prize, and another as a Simpson prize winner herself.

As part of a masters in history, that she is undertaking at present, Cowan has also just returned from a scholarship provided by the Australian History Teachers Association to go to the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel to study about the Holocaust.

“It was incredible,” she says.

“The quality of the people that we got to study under - Yehuda Bauer, for example, he’s one of the leading experts on the Holocaust, he came in and gave us a lecture.

“We were also spoken to by Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff - just incredible people.

“We also got to meet the youngest person on Schindler’s list. We went to visit Oskar Schindler’s grave on Mt Zion and a woman named Eva Levi came to tell us her story and how her family ended up on his list.”

Moving forward, Cowan says she really like to share all of the opportunities she’s had with fellow educators.

“From my study tours to Vietnam to Israel, and then my progress through the awards, share that with teachers around the state and around the country, how they can get involved etc.

“I have a conference that I’m speaking at next week about the premier’s prize, so that kind of thing.”