Go to top of page

2021 Public Education Awards winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Public Education Awards.

Leadership Awards

Early Years Leader of the Year

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.

Video transcript

Sally Wutke: We are Nuriootpa Community Children's Centre. We are located in the heart of Nuriootpa in the beautiful Barossa Valley. We have a not-for-profit childcare centre and a preschool program, and we service over a hundred families in our community.

Kirsty MacCulloch: Sally is incredibly innovative and a really strong leader in our region and has done an amazing job at putting in place some programming that hasn't been happening previously. That means that kids get a really fantastic experience.

Sally Wutke: In 2020, we instigated an emergent literacy project where staff got to work alongside a trained speech pathologist to develop high quality practices in literacy experiences for children.

Jasmin Lowcock: Sally is one of our most committed and dedicated preschool directors. She's generous, innovative, strategic.

Sally Wutke: I have the best job in the world. Each day I get to meet and greet families, work alongside children with play-based experiences and work with a great staff team to ensure the education and care of the children aged zero to five.

Primary Leader of the Year

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.

Video transcript

Dina Zunis: As principal, I see my role as a very noble role in the school community, where I support students, staff and parents. Also, I see myself as an educational leader, where I work strongly around supporting curriculum and driving improvement in students and learning.

Jenni McNamara: Dina as a leader drives change throughout the school. She's proactive about PDs and making sure that her staff are well equipped with knowledge, skills, and transferring those skills into learning in the classrooms with the kids.

Taylor Fieldhouse: Her relationship with the students is like nothing I've ever seen before. Like any time, you know, Dina walks through the school, she will know all students by name, she'll straight away know all the families.

Dina Zunis: Some of the impacts that I feel I have influenced has been particularly around student learning improvement, and that's been a credit to the very committed staff, and the uptake on professional learning, which has then impacted on teacher practice. And through that we've seen enormous gains in our student results, particularly around NAPLAN, running records and the phonic screener.

Secondary Leader of the Year

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.

Video transcript

Ruth Mussger: Murray Bridge High School is a rural high school. We have 1,050 students and a variety of pathways for them to take. My main job is facilitating student learning, and that is the core of everything we do. We take away the barriers that stop kids from being able to access learning at the highest levels that we can.

Kirrily Martin: As a Principal, Ruth is outstanding. She's a great leader, very collaborative, has the best interests of students and staff at heart in everything that she does.

Luke Starczak: She has created a culture here where Murray Bridge High School is at the forefront of South Australian education. We are leading so many aspects within this school in terms of, in particular, our digital learning. The culture that she's created here has allowed for the innovative practices to be recognized across the state.

Ruth Mussger: What I like to think is that I provide the infrastructure for my team to do the best work they can do. It's not all about me. It's very much about the team and the vision that we have for this school.

Teaching Awards

Early Years Teacher of the Year

Ashley Gregory – Teacher, 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.

Video transcript

Ashley Gregory: This is Flinders Children's Centre Tji Tji Wiltja Preschool in Port Augusta. My role is to nurture positive relationships with children and their families and educators here at the kindergarten and the wider community.

It's important to make the links with the community and for families to feel welcome, so that they feel comfortable to bring their children to kindergarten.

Alice Archibald: From the first time we met Ashley, we just knew she was a really gentle soul and Lewis warmed to her straight away. Just really appreciates the fact that he feels listened to and that she will make things with him and create with him as well.

Maia Mamerow: So her role is so important because we do have 58 Aboriginal children here and engaging with the Aboriginal families has been a really huge benefit towards our attendance rates and building on language and literacy.

Kaleesha Thompson: I think Ashley's amazing. All the children love her, especially my daughter, she'll come up and give her a big hug.

Ashley Gregory: I love watching the children grow and just watching their confidence grow and their language develop.

Credit Union SA Primary Teacher of the Year

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.

Video transcript

Liana McCurry: I love teaching Maths, it's my favourite part of the school day. As a student, I was always really good at Maths, so when I became a teacher, I really wanted to focus on kids that struggle in Maths and how I could best help them. So, I teach using an explicit direct instruction and multisensory approach. So, the explicit direct instruction means that we teach in small scaffolded steps, to ensure success for our students. Also means that we focus a lot on our review. So we're constantly reviewing concepts that we have learnt, so that students are retaining that knowledge and gaining more confidence as we go along.

Mark Hansen: Liana is an absolutely fantastic teacher. She's able to inspire other people to take on change. And she's demonstrated that since she's been here. She's worked on our Maths committee. She's produced a whole lot of materials without being asked, through her own passion and just shared them really openly with everybody who would like to see them.

Kids just really connect with her really well, and she gives fantastic feedback and every kid knows that they're actually getting better.

Liana McCurry: By the end of the year, I'd love to see my students feel very confident in their Maths ability and their Maths knowledge. I would like to develop my knowledge further in areas of evidence-based best practise, so that I can support students best.

Secondary Teacher of Year (joint winners)

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.

Video transcript

Jodi Long: So my background's visual arts. So I've always had that creative background. And what I've really been passionate about is setting up my students to be industry professionals and making sure that they've got the skills once they get out into the community. I've had a few of my students go on to be young entrepreneurs, setting up their own businesses and having amazing success.

Mat Evans: Jodi's very passionate about what she does. She's very passionate about the students and student's success. And you can see that in terms of her classroom teaching, you can see how the students are engaged in their learning, how they want to come to class, how it's our biggest elective subject and how students are successful in that subject.

Ebony Forsyth: It wasn't until I had Jodi as a teacher that I knew that I would be doing design, actually being told that I was good at this.

Jodi Long: I feel that I've got a lot to give the students and I just want them to find their passion.

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.

Video transcript

Faith Brohier: I love teaching students science because I think personally the natural world is so intricately designed and I love showing them how they can explore that and understand that through using science and also explore their own questions.

And Maths, I really love teaching because that's how we live, we solve problems.

Sam Moyle: Faith's personality is really bubbly and open, really positive and supportive. And so that blends beautifully with her teaching because the students do feel like they're in a safe place to ask questions.

Tony Lunniss: As well as being a teacher who's really got high standards in terms of teaching and learning. She also a really caring person. Who's very concerned about the wellbeing of her students and creating a tone in the class that's very inclusive and collaborative.

Isabella: She's always a there to approach both in class and outside of class. And if you don't understand something she will always find another way to phrase it and another way to help you through.

Faith Brohier: You love those moments when you've got kids who come in and they might not like Maths, or they might not like Science or they're scared of it. And you're able to show them that it isn't something to be scared of. It might be challenging, but that they can all do it. And I really believe that with the proper support they can all do it.

Inclusive Teacher of the Year (Disability)

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.

Video transcript

Jessica Daniel: My role is to support students with disabilities. That's through offering a variety of different programs and adjustments for the students to make sure that they get the best out of their time here at school, Autism MATES is a program MATES assisting to engage socially.

We have MATES leaders, and then we have the supported MATE. And the idea is that the MATES leaders are really empowered and are able to develop their leadership skills to support those students on the Autism Spectrum who may struggle to make friends or to engage with their peers while here at school.

Student: The MATES program is important because it ensures that students feel like they belong within the school community and feel like they have a friend.

Sonia Pringle: Jess is really warm and welcoming. She's so passionate about people with a disability that she really shares that with other staff members and helps bring us along the journey.

Jessica Daniel: I'm really proud to be involved in the MATES program. It's a first in South Australia. It really empowers students and gives them a sense of belonging in their school community.

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.

Video transcript

Bekkie Houston: Our Entrepreneurial Teaching Team, is a group of teachers and leaders that was established to create entrepreneurial and career immersion learning, for all our students, from years 8 to 10.

Amelia Redman: We were finding that students were lacking in critical and creative thinking, and resilience. And we wanted to create an opportunity and a space for students to develop resilience, and develop their critical and creative thinking by embracing challenge and risk-taking as well.

Kelly Albanese: Our students are engaged in school-wide programs, such as the $20 Boss and Shark Tank, which really fully develop their creativity, their critical thinking skills, their problem solving.

As they are entering into year 10, we're looking at engaging them in the community, connecting them with local employers, and then into senior school, really consolidating all of those skills into their research project.

Bekkie Houston: The teaching team work really well together, we're such a dynamic group that bring different skill sets, which helps us cater for a variety of student needs.

And at the end of the day, our main focus is on providing students with the opportunity to develop skills that they're going to need in the future.

Other Awards

Aunty Josie Agius Award

Honorary Recipient, Thomas Hampton

Video transcript

Thomas Hampton: I'm Thomas Hampton. I'm the First Language Maintenance and Development Coordinator. And I work across 10 different communities. One of my young lads, he always says, "language is our culture and culture is our language."

Language and culture is a really big part in how we can get our stories of dreamtime, bring it into our classes and learning.

Sue Charleston: In education, it's really important to focus on the relationships with the people you work with, but maintain integrity and what you believe. Because there are lots and lots of challenges and Thomas is so strong, but also so responsive to people. He's approachable. Everyone's happy to work with him, get advice from him. He's seen as the expert, he's seen as a person you can consult with. He's also seen as a person you can be vulnerable with and say, ‘I don't know this, can you help me?’ And he's there to help anyone.

Thomas Hampton: It's important to empower Anangu so that in the future that we're able to give these next generations a reason, and a reason on knowing what their future can be about. What do they wanna be when they get older?

Site-based Support Award

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.

Video transcript

Dr Tom Putnam: My current role is the senior leader for Aboriginal Education. So I oversee the team. So we've got two ASETOs, an ACEO an AET, but we've also got the SAASTA program with two teachers involved in that.

And we've also just started the Clontarf program as well this year. So I'm really proud of the different support networks that we have. We've also got a relationship with the One Box program who deliver 500 kilos of food to the school every week. And then we deliver that out to a number of different families, including our Aboriginal families as well.

Kelly Holmes: I'm working as an Aboriginal education Teacher working mostly across the middle school, supporting students to improve their engagement and their literacy here at school. So providing some reading intervention to help them increase their reading ability and be able to access their learning better.

Mark Mitchell: So, I work with students, both in class and out of class, help them with scholarships, applying for scholarships. I'm most proud about engaging with families and students.

Dr Tom Putnam: The thing that I'm most proud of through our Aboriginal education programs is the relationships that we've built through the students and the families and the connections that we've made and how comfortable the students feel working with us as a team.

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.

Video transcript

Matt Jessett: The Curriculum Resources Team is a team that involves curriculum managers who work in all of the eight subject areas to produce curriculum resources for schools. They are working on practical resources that teachers can use in their classroom. We work very closely with teachers from the field. So we have teachers come in to support the writing of these units of work. And it's resource written by teachers for teachers to be used in the classroom.

Deonne Smith: We provide detailed scope and sequence documents that outline sequentially, the content and big concepts in the curriculum, and also units of work that bring together what to teach, but also how to teach it and how to assess the work as well. And so it's a really helpful guide that teachers can use and adapt to their own class and their school.

Matt Jessett: I think ultimately it benefits the students. So it really goes after improving student results. And it does that by providing teachers with clear, practical advice that they can use in the classroom to really go after targeted teaching that's research informed to really support their teaching in the classroom.

Community Engagement Award

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.

Video transcript

Celeste Raymond: I work with families in crisis or ongoing longer-term case management. It's important because of the vulnerability of our community and that the parents often will have needs that haven't been met. And we're trying to decrease that vulnerability amongst the parents just as much as we're decreasing the vulnerability amongst the children. So, it's that holistic approach to working with our families.

Lynette Corletto: She never gives up which is one of her strengths. So, once she's engaged with the family, she's with them, walking alongside them, doing whatever she needs to do to support them to grow and develop and engage with all of the available supports to make sure that their kids have the best go at life and at their schooling.

Maureen: She's helped me out a great deal. If it wasn't for Celeste, I don't know where I would have been, sorry. But yeah, she's helped me out a lot.

Celeste Raymond: So I'm passionate about the role because I can already see that it is helping the community on a more long-term basis with early intervention approach to working with both the families and supporting the children.

Public Education Awards

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