Stephanie’s winning essay makes history
Finley High School Year 11 student Stephanie Harris has won a prestigious state award for history essay writing.
She was named the state winner of the 2017 National History Challenge for her essay entitled ‘Ching Shih: Illegally Making a Better World’.
She will receive her award at Parliament House in Sydney today.
This year’s essay contest asked students to write to the theme ‘Making a Better World’.
Stephanie said she chose to write her 1800 word essay on Ching Shih — a female pirate from the Qing China who commanded the China Sea in early 19th century — because of the ruthless impact she left on the Chinese.
‘‘I wanted to write about somebody interesting, who would keep my interest until the rest of the term.
‘‘If I picked someone boring I would have just ignored the essay.
‘‘Ching Shih caused a lot of trouble for the Chinese government.
‘‘Some of her impacts — both political and social environment — contributed to a better world.’’
Stephanie said she has found joy in writing both history and English essays during her studies, and said she has learned ‘‘so much’’ from researching and reading about characters and historical figures.
The state award came as a big shock for the student though, who said even being judged best in the region was a big honour.
‘‘I was called to the principal’s office and I was freaking out, thinking I was in trouble,’’ Stephanie said of the way she was notified.
History teacher Kate Littlejohn said it was the first time she had seen Stephanie speechless.
‘‘It was very exciting to receive the email (about Stephanie’s win); I had to do a double take,’’ Mrs Littlejohn said.
‘‘It’s a very prestigious award. I know many schools that have entered year-in, year-out and have not had a winner.
‘‘The History Teachers Association judges the New South Wales section and they’re a very high academic level group of people, so I was delighted they thought the work we’re doing here is worthwhile.’’
Mrs Littlejohn said she was certain Stephanie’s choice of subject set her apart.
‘‘Some of my students wrote about Princess Diana, Civil Right activists, Gandhi or Alexander Fleming and the positive impact they had on the world.
‘‘Stephanie took Ching Shih’s story and explained how this person was awful but was able to say she had a positive impact on society.’’
Finley High principal Helen McRae said Stephanie has done the school proud, saying her win was a ‘‘huge deal for a small rural school’’.
‘‘Stephanie is showing she can mix it with the best from across the state and even Australia,’’ Mrs McRae said.
‘‘These awards are usually won by the elite Sydney schools, so for a Finley High School student to win this is amazing.’’