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Finalists – Public Education Awards

The finalists for the 2021 Public Education Award are listed below.

Winners will be announced on 5 November.

View categories of the Public Education Awards for a description of each award.

Leadership Awards

Early Years Leader of the Year Award

Margie Colton
Kindergarten Director, Bertram Hawker Kindergarten

Margie’s leadership is characterised by a strong belief in the key principles of equity, inclusion and early years public education. At Bertram Hawker, she’s developed her staff into a strong, cohesive and professional learning team, resulting in the centre achieving an “Excellent” rating against the National Quality Standards in 2015. She’s done this while encouraging an environment of community learning where parents and Governing Council are actively engaged in the development of improvement goals, and the ongoing learning that comes from active research and inquiry.

Sally Wuttke
Director, Nuriootpa Community Children’s Centre

Ensuring children receive high-quality education and care in childcare and preschool environments is something Sally is extremely passionate about. After analysing data from her centre and wider partnership, she instigated an Emergent Literacy Project and training and development across all 4 early childhood sites within the Barossa partnership. She developed a Literacy Practice Agreement with her staff to address the issue of emergent literacy and shared to also support early childhood leaders and staff in her region. These programs have led to a change in practice and supported improvement goals that are strongly linked to the context of the children and their local community. Sally drives initiatives like this underpinned by close relationships with families, early childhood research and tailored training and development for all staff, to achieve positive outcomes for children.

Jane Moore
Director, Aldinga Beach Children’s Centre

As the founding Director of Aldinga Beach Children’s Centre, Jane has utilised her passion, deep knowledge and leadership skills to create a centre renowned for collaboration, connection to community, and a strong focus on outcomes for children’s learning and development. Over 8 years, Jane has supported staff to improve through professional learning and reflective practice. She has focused on inquiry pedagogy, encouraging children to become critical thinkers and develop theories of how the world works. The outcomes of children attending the centre have continued to grow as a result, with children’s individual learning goals being achieved 97% of the time.

Primary Leader of the Year Award

Dina Zunis
Principal, North Ingle School

Dina is a passionate and committed leader who drives change and improvement through an inclusive culture of high expectations of staff and students, enabled through quality teaching and learning. Often visible in the classroom, her focus on collaborative working relationships with students, staff, families and support services has made an impact across the school and preschool, and has resulted in sustained improvement in student outcomes across NAPLAN, PAT-R, Running Records and phonics screening. Dina has been invited to share her Educational Narrative with other partnerships, demonstrating pedagogical shifts that have positively impacted on student results through her strategic vision and design.

Gael Little
Principal, East Torrens Primary School

With over 20 years’ experience as a leader across various sites, Gael is passionate about the potential of every student. She constantly strives for improvement through shared accountability for learning outcomes, and prioritises the training and development of her team. She’s had a positive impact on East Torrens Primary School by implementing Professional Learning teams to build the capacity of her staff and the school’s focus on improving student literacy and numeracy outcomes. Over the past 4 years, student wellbeing areas surveyed have shown improvement, with 85% in school engagement areas, alongside significant improvements for all students in NAPLAN and PAT Reading and Maths data.

Julie Murphy
Principal, Elizabeth Vale Primary School

Julie leads with a deep moral purpose, complemented by an equally strong focus on lifelong learning. Relentless in holding herself and others to high standards, providing high-quality educational opportunities for all students is at the core of her work as an educator within the public education system. Julie continues to engage with educational research, developing a range of teams, including a Pedagogical Coaching team and Inclusive Education team. She has also introduced a Community Connections Coordinator to support the improvements in the quality of teaching, learning and student outcomes. Evidence of this is supported by an increase in enrolments of Aboriginal children by 40% and continued growth of Year 1 students in phonics screening pass rates.

Secondary Leader of the Year Award

Nikola Haskell
Principal, The Grove Education Centre

Under Nikola’s leadership, every child at The Grove Education Centre has demonstrated positive growth and achievement in their literacy, numeracy and communication outcomes, with 100% of transitional readers having made progress in multiple reading assessment tests. Her commitment, care and determination are inspirational and help drive her team towards their vision of being ‘at the forefront of special education’ by engaging learners with unlimited possibilities.

Ruth Mussger
Principal, Murray Bridge High School

Ruth is focussed on equity of access to learning. She leads by example, setting a mandate for her team to remove barriers and develop clear pathways to connect learning, community and future aspirations. This includes ensuring every student across the large and complex school has access to the technology, support and tailored learning they need to achieve. As a result, students at her school are showing continual improvement, evidenced by an increase in the School Performance Score in NAPLAN over the past 3 years. Ruth has also been pivotal in building pride and belonging by situating the school as a central hub within the community, and using entrepreneurial learning within social and business sectors to provide new pathways for students and their families.

Heather Makris
Principal, Birdwood High School

As a leader and strategic systems thinker, Heather forms and leads dynamic teams focused on driving their school improvement agenda for greatest impact on student learning. Heather helps her teams to identify their strengths and understand their worth, and shares her passion, vision and commitment to student-centred teaching to achieve learning improvement. An unwavering focus on goals, actions and priorities has resulted in SACE completion rates improving from 59.4% to consistently sitting at 99% and NAPLAN improvements in numeracy and reading.

Teaching Awards

Early Years Teacher of the Year Award

Coralie Dixon
Preschool Teacher, Barmera Kindergarten

Coralie is a passionate preschool teacher who develops strong relationships with the children in her care, along with their families. With 78% of all enrolments at Barmera Kindergarten having never accessed care outside the family prior to starting kindy, Coralie focuses on establishing a meaningful relationship with every child through personalised programs, high-quality interactions and intentional teaching.

Ashley Gregory
Teacher – Aboriginal Family Literacy Strategy, Flinders Children’s Centre and Tji Tji Wiltja Preschool

Ashley nurtures positive and supportive relationships between children, families and educators at her children’s centre, where 98% of enrolments are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Using up-to-date research to create responsive learning environments and culturally inclusive practices, her work has helped increase attendance from 63% in 2018 to 78% in 2021 and has also seen a significant increase in children’s use of tier 3 and conversational language.

Deborah Walsh
Teacher, Paradise Kindergarten

With 44 years’ experience working in public education in South Australia, Deborah is a reflective practitioner who works flexibly and responsively with young children. A lead teacher who is always willing to share her knowledge, she has mentored student and early career teachers, as well as working with other preschools, demonstrating and articulating her practice and intentional teaching. Deborah’s passion to connect past learning with current research is evident through her participation in the Music Education Strategy, helping to promote high quality music education that is valued and inspires learning.

Credit Union SA Primary Teacher of the Year Award

Nicole Chataway
Primary Teacher, Yalata Anangu School

Nicole employs Two-Way Science, an approach that prioritises Anangu knowledge and ways of learning to deliver the curriculum. Developed from topics chosen by Anangu experts, Nicole works together with Anangu educators to plan, teach and assess units that promote a culturally responsive pedagogy, resulting in high quality outcomes for children and young people. As a result of the Two-Way Science approach and the engagement that it fosters, 100% of students are at or above their given national standard for science.

Jessie Plisko
Year 4/5 Teacher, Willsden Primary School

Jessie is passionate about teaching young Aboriginal learners. She works with each student to build relationships that promote strong individual growth and actively develops a deep awareness of the needs, interests and learning styles of every child in her classroom. Mapping individual student achievement and planning for the provision of ongoing feedback, has led to positive outcomes for her students, with every student’s writing improving by at least one Learning English: Achievement and Proficiency (LEAP) level.

Liana McCurry
Primary School Teacher, Ardtornish Primary School

Liana is particularly passionate about the subject of mathematics. Her Explicit Direct Instruction and multisensory approach to teaching ensures success for her students. Following the adoption of her teaching strategies, data shows an average increase in assessment scores for her students of over 315%. As a member of the Maths Committee, Liana is committed to supporting colleagues across multiple schools to plan and deliver engaging maths lessons for primary students. By sharing her learning resources and expertise with her peers, Liana has positively impacted not only the students she engages with directly, but many more across her partnership.

Secondary Teacher of the Year Award

Sue Pratt
Agriculture Teacher, Balaklava High School

Winner of the 2021 Agriculture Teachers Association of SA Excellence Award, Sue is heavily involved in middle school and SACE Curriculum development. Within 12 months she tripled the number of Balaklava High’s years 9-12 students choosing agriculture as a subject. She has also established links with the Balaklava Community Children’s Centre and Primary School, resulting in 160 children sharing agricultural experiences in 2020, and plans to extend this partnership further in 2022.

Faith Brohier
Mathematics, Chemistry and Science Teacher, Brighton Secondary School

Faith has an incredible rapport with her students, ensuring they understand their value as people, rather than focusing only on a grade. She couples a holistic wellbeing approach with a range of pedagogical approaches including class discussions, analytical experiments and innovative approaches in chemistry, science and maths and provides detailed feedback to help students improve their learning outcomes. As a result, 96% of her current Stage 2 Chemistry students are achieving in A and B bands with 48% achieving in the A band. She has inspired a love of science amongst her students, with approximately 90% of Stage 2 chemistry students indicating interest in continuing to study science throughout their education.

Jodi Long
Teacher, Renmark High School

With her passion for digital media, commitment to professional development and dedication to working with industry professionals, Jodi has been able to develop a cohesive curriculum for digital media at Renmark High School. Several of her students have gone on to establish successful businesses with Jodi’s guidance and support, and many others have been recognised for their work locally, internationally, and globally. Jodi encourages authentic learning opportunities, working closely with rural businesses to allow students to further promote the Riverland region.

Inclusive Teacher of the Year (Disability) Award

Jessica Daniel
Special Class Teacher, Balaklava High School

Jessica has a passion for creating inclusive learning environments and works collaboratively with her colleagues to increase their knowledge and further build capacity for a whole-school approach to inclusion. She’s delivered professional learning on Autism to further educate and inspire her team and has successfully implemented the national Autism MATES (Mates Assisting to Engage Socially) program; a first for South Australia. Promoting inclusiveness by pairing nominated mainstream students with a student on the Autism Spectrum, Jessica saw 40 students apply to be MATES leaders, supporting the work she has done to promote students with disability.

Kirsten Mooney
Special Education Teacher/LOTE Auslan Teacher, Mount Barker Primary School

Kirsten has worked hard to build collaborative relationships with families, colleagues and the broader school community of Mount Barker Primary, fostering and increasing familiarity with and knowledge of Auslan. By keeping abreast of research and best practice, Kirsten continues to improve the learning experiences of her students, ensuring inclusivity for all. Productive working relationships with community stakeholders has ensured projects with the local council library and community groups continue to support and advocate for Deaf, Hard of Hearing or for those who use Auslan communication methods.

Ali McLarty
Inclusive Education Teacher, Adelaide Botanic High School

Ali works one-on-one with her student with complex communication requirements (eye-gaze use of Augmented Assisted Communication) and severe physical disability. She works collaboratively with colleagues to create engaging and challenging curriculum tasks, and with the student’s family and allied health professionals to support their social, emotional and physical development. Most importantly, she supports her student to communicate with peers and other staff, helping them towards achieving their goal of independent communication.

University of South Australia Team Teaching Award

Entrepreneurial Teaching Team
Grant High School

The Grant High School Entrepreneurial team have worked together to create an Entrepreneurial Education program for students. The program includes a 1-week immersion in grade-specific programs for years 8-11, which has resulted in increased attendance, individual student growth relating to critical thinking and resilience, and increased engagement and sense of purpose through real-life connections to the community. Students are also given opportunities to further develop their entrepreneurial skills year-round through the Personal Improvement Program, offering weekly lessons, including ‘$20 Boss’ and ‘Shark Tank’ challenges. Creating authentic learning experiences with industry connections has given students the opportunity to take up future employment.

Enhanced Learning Hub
Balaklava High School

Balaklava High School’s Enhanced Learning Hub (ELH) supports two thirds of the school, including some of the community’s most vulnerable. Senior students who don’t want in-class SSO support have chosen to engage with the ELH, resulting in 100% of students with disability accessing support. The ELH has a unique culture with strong informed practices and dynamic approaches to intervention, helping to develop mentally healthy, goal driven students. ELH numbers have tripled over 3 years, with 97.5% of students stating the ELH helped them achieve enhanced learning outcomes.

Centre of Deaf Education Team
Avenues College

The Centre of Deaf Education (CDE) team at Avenues College is an exemplary example of high-quality bilingual support. The team implements inclusive education practices to ensure Deaf and Hard of Hearing students have full access to all aspects of school life. They are instrumental in implementing high-impact intervention programs, establishing life skills training programs and providing high quality interpretation services. In 2021 the team implemented an original Literacy Intervention Program ‘MorThemes’, a morphological awareness program that has dramatically improved the literacy of deaf students, specifically growth in their vocabulary, writing and comprehension.

Other Awards

Aunty Josie Agius Award

Honorary recipient to be announced on 5 November

Site-based Support Award

Jo Hann
Early Childhood Worker, Hackham West Children’s Centre

Jo's dedication to Hackham West Children’s Centre, as well as her child-centred, trauma-informed practice, not only supports the vulnerable members of her community to access learning, it also positions her as an exemplary mentor to every educator on her team. In 2021 Jo stepped into a Preschool Support role and has worked closely with a speech pathologist to deliver speech programs to children in need of additional support with their speech or language.

Urumbula Program
John Pirie Secondary School

The Urumbula Program is multi-faceted, encompassing culturally significant learning activities for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. This includes cultivating a wide variety of plants traditionally used by Aboriginal people, developing learning resources in multiple learning areas targeting Aboriginal curriculum priorities and making a series of Welcome to Nukunu Country films available for the wider community. The program has also brought Aboriginal guest speakers to the school and developed an Aboriginal Arts Excellence elective which conducts projects such as the school’s Connections Mural. Urumbula has had a significant impact, with 95% of Aboriginal students achieving their SACE in 2020, increased attendance rates and increased Aboriginal presence through student enrolments and staff.

Aboriginal Education Team
Paralowie R-12 School

The Aboriginal Education Team strives to support every Aboriginal student to be successful, through providing opportunities for cultural engagement, additional learning experiences, and transitioning learners into positive pathways post-school. The team offers a range of academic, wellbeing, financial and cultural support systems to cater for each individual student and their needs. For 3 of the last 4 years, Aboriginal learners at the school have achieved a 100% SACE completion rate, with 3 students in the last 2 years completing SACE requirements a year early. Through the development of multiple initiatives, including an on-site SAASTA Academy, Clontarf Academy, Kaurna Language Program, intervention programs, tertiary connections for pathways and scholarships, and the creation of a Paralowie School Reconciliation Action Plan, the school has seen improved engagement, attendance and achievement outcomes for their Aboriginal students.

System Support Award

Curriculum Resources
Alex Semmens, Curriculum Development directorate, Curriculum and Learning

Curriculum Resources provide teachers and leaders with high level, evidence-informed guidance for implementing the 3-dimensional Australian Curriculum within the state context. This highly collaborative work is developed ‘for teachers – with teachers’, seconding over 60 current classroom teachers per year to contribute to resource development. Through ongoing partnerships with multiple associations and engaging with over 300 current classroom teachers each year, the resources directly target the curriculum needs of our schools.

Perspective
Rachel Murphy, Culture and Capability directorate, People and Culture

Perspective is the department's climate and engagement survey. The survey generates insight into the culture at schools, preschools and children’s centres by gathering staff perceptions. It provides robust measures of climate and staff engagement specifically tailored to the educational context. The Perspective team established change agents and created resources to enable leaders and staff to work together to improve climate and engagement and create environments that will improve employee experience and student outcomes. The survey saw 17% growth in participation in 2020 from its inception in 2018, contributing to a world-class education system.

Phonics Screening Check
Renee Malbut-McHale, Curriculum Policy and Standards directorate, Curriculum and Learning Division

Developed in the UK, the phonics screening check is a short, simple assessment that tells teachers how students are progressing in phonics. In 2018, South Australia was the first Australian state to implement phonics screening checks for all year 1 students. Results enabled teachers and leaders to receive high-quality professional learning and practical resources to support deliberate and direct modifications to daily teaching strategies. In 2019, there was a 9% statewide improvement in expected achievement and after 3 years, a cumulative achievement of 20% was recorded.

Community Engagement Award

Reconciliation in Action
Port Elliot Kindergarten

Together with Ngarrindjeri elders, community members and families, Port Elliot Kindergarten has raised the bar for reconciliation in action in an early years’ education setting. Through community collaboration, embedding Ngarrindjeri language into the learning program, and planning and hosting a successful community event attended by hundreds of people, they’ve shown commitment to closing the gap and building understanding and respect for First Nations people. Their ‘know better: do better’ philosophy inspires meaningful relationships and purposeful action toward reconciliation for all.

A Path of Intergenerational Connection
Crystal Brook Kindergarten

Crystal Brook Kindergarten has created a strong and ongoing intergenerational connection with residents from the local hospital’s aged care facility. ‘A path of intergenerational connection’ is a powerful story that has been bringing younger and older members of the community together since 2016. Crystal Brook Kindergarten works with community partners to enhance authentic learning opportunities with improved outcomes for learners and has collaborated with the Port Pirie Regional Council and Southern Flinders Health Crystal Brook campus to create a footpath to enable visits between sites.

Celeste Raymond
Social Worker, Attendance and Family Engagement, Melaleuca Park Primary School

Celeste supports school improvement through an evidence-based holistic practice approach. She engages families and walks alongside them, addressing family-level needs within a vulnerable community. Coordinating a holistic ‘Team Around the Family’ approach, Celeste utilises a strengths-based framework ensuring children have developmental checks and families can access support, freeing up teachers to focus on teaching and learning. She ensures teachers are provided with specific information about individual child development needs along with family level needs and relevant supports, which inform learning programs and interventions and also reduce family barriers, so children are better supported in their learning and family needs are supported.

System Support Award

Curriculum Development Team
Curriculum Development Directorate, Curriculum and Learning

Curriculum Resources provide teachers and leaders with high level, evidence-informed guidance for implementing the 3-dimensional Australian Curriculum within the state context. This highly collaborative work is developed ‘for teachers – with teachers’, seconding over 60 current classroom teachers per year to contribute to resource development. Through ongoing partnerships with multiple associations and engaging with over 300 current classroom teachers each year, the resources directly target the curriculum needs of our schools.

Perspective Team
Culture and Capability Directorate, People and Culture

Perspective is the department's climate and engagement survey. The survey generates insight into the culture at schools, preschools and children’s centres by gathering staff perceptions. It provides robust measures of climate and staff engagement specifically tailored to the educational context. The Perspective team established change agents and created resources to enable leaders and staff to work together to improve climate and engagement and create environments that will improve employee experience and student outcomes. The survey saw 17% growth in participation in 2020 from its inception in 2018, contributing to a world-class education system.

Phonics Screening Check
Curriculum Policy and Standards Directorate, Curriculum and Learning Division

Developed in the UK, the phonics screening check is a short, simple assessment that tells teachers how students are progressing in phonics. In 2018, South Australia was the first Australian state to implement phonics screening checks for all year 1 students. Results enabled teachers and leaders to receive high-quality professional learning and practical resources to support deliberate and direct modifications to daily teaching strategies. In 2019, there was a 9% statewide improvement in expected achievement and after 3 years, a cumulative achievement of 20% was recorded.

Community Engagement Award

Reconciliation in Action
Port Elliot Kindergarten

Together with Ngarrindjeri elders, community members and families, Port Elliot Kindergarten has raised the bar for reconciliation in action in an early years’ education setting. Through community collaboration, embedding Ngarrindjeri language into the learning program, and planning and hosting a successful community event attended by hundreds of people, they’ve shown commitment to closing the gap and building understanding and respect for First Nations people. Their ‘know better: do better’ philosophy inspires meaningful relationships and purposeful action toward reconciliation for all.

A Path of Intergenerational Connection
Crystal Brook Kindergarten

Crystal Brook Kindergarten has created a strong and ongoing intergenerational connection with residents from the local hospital’s aged care facility. ‘A path of intergenerational connection’ is a powerful story that has been bringing younger and older members of the community together since 2016. Crystal Brook Kindergarten works with community partners to enhance authentic learning opportunities with improved outcomes for learners and has collaborated with the Port Pirie Regional Council and Southern Flinders Health Crystal Brook campus to create a footpath to enable visits between sites.

Celeste Raymond
Social Worker, Attendance and Family Engagement, Melaleuca Park Primary School

Celeste supports school improvement through an evidence-based holistic practice approach. She engages families and walks alongside them, addressing family-level needs within a vulnerable community. Coordinating a holistic ‘Team Around the Family’ approach, Celeste utilises a strengths-based framework ensuring children have developmental checks and families can access support, freeing up teachers to focus on teaching and learning. She ensures teachers are provided with specific information about individual child development needs along with family level needs and relevant supports, which inform learning programs and interventions and also reduce family barriers, so children are better supported in their learning and family needs are supported.

Public Education Awards

Phone: 8463 4985
Email: PublicEducationAwards [at] sa.gov.au