Michael Panormitis Pakakis AM: The Greek migrant who aimed for the stars

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On January 26th more than 840 Australians, among them six of Greek heritage, who were recognised for their outstanding and inspirational services to the country.

Michael Panormitis Pakakis, was one of them. 

“I was born in Rhodes in 1962 and I migrated to Australia with my parents when I was thirteen months old,” Michael Panormitis Pakakis AM, tells The Greek Herald as he explains how he decided to become a STEM educator.

“I had no siblings or family in Australia and during my childhood I used to spend a lot of time alone watching science fiction TV series or reading books while my parents were at work. My mum was a seamstress and my dad a toolmaker.

“Books were what sparked my interest in science and when the Americans landed on the moon in July 20, 1969, I told my dad I wanted to do something related to science.”

So, he did. But knowledge is just information if it’s not passed on and for Michael teaching came naturally. 

“I used to be a tutor during my studies and I enjoyed it. Then I became a teacher. I’ve been teaching since 1985 and I really enjoy what I do,” Michael says

Recognised as a leader in STEM education, Michael is the Director of the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in Victoria’s Strathmore Secondary College and works closely with the Education Heads of NASA (Ames Research Centre), The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to develop STEM teaching resources.

“During my first years in teaching, I taught disadvantaged kids from migrant and refugee backgrounds, often with poor English and learning difficulties. 

“I used to tell them that I am a migrant too and they can achieve anything they dream of, if they put some effort in. I wanted to be a role model for them,” Mr Pakakis says.

Asked what his motto is he pauses for a second. 

“It’s one that NASA instils in all astronauts. 

“Failure is not an option. Perseverance is the only option. I think this says it all,” he concludes. 

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