The Tamworth-based high school science teacher also works casually at the University of Wollongong, runs his own professional development workshops and is prolifically active on social media.
During a rare quiet moment, he explains his approach to teaching to Australian Teacher Magazine.
“I would say it’s dynamic, with plenty of time for student questioning and revisiting concepts,” he says.
It’s important, Dodds says, to get kids interested early.
“When I teach Year 7, from their first couple of weeks in science I try to get them engaged with science and experiments from the start,” he says.
“And so when I teach them the branches of science, so chemistry, physics and biology, the three main branches, instead of just verbally teaching them about the branches we actually do them.
“So when they learn about chemistry we do a chemistry prac, so they’re getting chemistry experience in the first three weeks of high school.”
Another important point for Dodds is to make sure that all lessons are relevant to students.
“If you can’t relate the prac you’re doing to the real world, to students, you’ve sort of failed them. You need to be able to say to them ‘all right, we’ve just dissected a kidney, now why is this important?’ and then you might relate that to renal dialysis,” he says.
“Or you’ve just looked at total internal reflection, you can do a prac with water coming out of a coke bottle and you can trap a laser inside the stream, and why is that important?
“And the reason for that is that fibre optic cords are how we get internet these days, and they use that principle to send the information down the fibre optic, so I guess making it relevant to students [is important].
“If they can’t see the relevance they’re not going to care.”
Dodds credits his high school teachers with his lifelong love of science.
“I guess what drew me to science was having really good science teachers in high school, but also being someone who’s always been curious in science and why things happen and interested in it.
“So recently I asked the University of Wollongong students who their science heroes are, and it was so pleasing to hear that they were similar to me in the sense that they had at least one, if not two or three, science teachers in high school that really changed their perspective, which was why they were doing what they were doing.”
At his professional development workshops, Dodds espouses the value of social media for teachers.
“... instead of being just Matt Dodds from Tamworth, who has a very small network of science teachers available to him, I’ve got thousands of teachers and science professionals that I can interact with, which is really, really enriching,” he says.