Having previously enjoyed a seven-year career as a bosun in the navy, Heath is now in her seventh year as an educator and is always looking for exciting and practical ways to engage her Grade 10, 11 and 12 students.

It’s her dedication to always be fundraising for her students and developing a comprehensive learning program to teach them gardening, cooking, business and customer service skills that has seen her recently announced by the University of the Sunshine Coast as their Fraser Coast Educator of the Year.

“At our school, people were cooking pretty much anything and everything, and so I determined that we needed to get back to more healthy eating,” Heath says.

So, equipped with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program and access to two rundown garden beds at the school, she began looking into what could be done to improve how things were run.

“I adapted the program to suit a special school context,” she says.

“Because there’s such a wide variety of students, there’s different levels of learning, you do need to separate it slightly, at different levels."

Local freemasons from Hervey Bay helped build much needed extra garden beds around the school.

“There are garden beds for each juncture (early years, primary, secondary and senior secondary)  – there’s three each and that way they’ve all got an area they can visit to garden.

“I realised we needed tool and gardening equipment as well, so I put together a garden trolley for each juncture, which has everything they need on it – including gloves, spades, watering cans etc.”

The program has led to some fabulous outcomes.

“I’ve linked in the kitchen and garden and growing program into the tuck shop, which we now call the Fresh Food Cafe,” Heath says.

The cafe, complete with a newly constructed commercial style kitchen, opens once a week for food service, along with a coffee shop called ‘Coffee at Hervey’s’ and students undertake training throughout the week.

 “We do some catering as well, so we do things for P&C groups, we’ve even catered to visitors from the education department,” she says, proudly.

“I’ve got one student who’s been in my class for about three years now and ... I did a food safety supervisor program with him during our lunch breaks.

“He’s completed that now and has got paid work next year at a public cafe here in Hervey Bay.”

It seems there’s no end to Heath’s enthusiasm and bright ideas.

She’s also helped students fundraise through their production of tasty dog biscuits and marketing and selling them, organised astronomy nights involving parents and their kids, and a brilliant cooking competition involving local My Kitchen Rules (MKR) favourites (and winners), Dan and Steph.

Given her boundless inventiveness and get-up-and-go, it’s no surprise Heath is also a finalist in the Queensland College of Teachers – Excellence in Teaching Awards.