Emma Rice is on a mission. The St John's College teacher wants Dubbo students to have the same quality access to education their metropolitan peers have, and for them to know they can achieve just as much. "Sometimes I think students in rural areas sell themselves short and they don't think they're capable of achieving what their counterparts in metropolitan areas are going to," she said. "I've sort of made it my mission to say 'you can do well, you can be a doctor, you can do hard things and do really well at it'." Ms Rice recently received the Early Career Teacher Award at the NSW Teachers Guild Awards. She was the only finalist this side of the Blue Mountains. Ms Rice grew up in Parkes. She studied agricultural science at the University of New England before doing masters in teaching. For the past two years she's been at St John's College, where she teaches agriculture, science and biology. While Ms Rice said she was "genuinely shocked" when she was announced as the winner of the award, her passion for teaching, and for her students, is apparent. "I wanted a career that was going to be fast-paced, challenging. I wanted a career where I wasn't going to be stuck at a desk all day and I was going to be interacting with people. It's something that's really visible and you can see the work that you're doing. And you're constantly adapting and learning," Ms Rice said. "I'm never waiting for five o'clock. I used to work at the uni while I was studying and I was always watching the clock, counting down until the end of the day. Whereas in this job the days go so quickly because you're enjoying it and because you're busy." She attributes part of her success to her "incredible" colleagues at St John's, and the strong support network at the school. Although she admitted it was "terrifying" to speak at the award ceremony in front of 450 people, Ms Rice used the opportunity to speak about education in rural and regional areas. "Part of my message was that you can receive really high quality education out here, you don't have to go away. I'm really keen on making sure all our students have equal access to education or opportunities that their metropolitan peers have. I think if kids can be educated and receive a high quality of education here, they're more likely to stay here in the long run," she said. "These are the kids who will feed into the rural communities of the future." One of the ways St John's is achieving that is through iFarm. The school was one of 50 chosen across Australia to be part of the program. The iFarm is comprised of eight growing bays that can be programmed by the students to control things like water and fertiliser distribution. They're powered using solar and wind energy. The Year 8 students are currently competing to see who can grow the most vegetables by weight. "The kids are absolutely in awe of the fact we were chosen to get it and I think seeing that we've been chosen really does bring a sense of worth. It's been really special to see," Ms Rice said.