The Public Education Awards recognise and reward the achievements of teachers, leaders, allied health professionals, support and corporate staff across our state.
Public Education Award finalists announced
Congratulations to the 30 finalists in the 2018 Public Education Awards. The awards recognise and showcase excellence in South Australian public education. Through this program, we proudly share our achievements with the community and highlight the innovation, passion and expertise that form the foundation of our strong public education system.
In 2018 there are 10 categories, each with one winner and two runner up finalists receiving prizes for personal or team professional development. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in October.
Teachers Health Leadership Award
Principal, Mitcham Girls High School
Antoinette’s leadership has transformed Mitcham Girls High School into a community that is dedicated to providing outstanding educational opportunities to all girls. She set about change by working with parents, staff, students and other community members to define the school’s values of respect, excellence and global citizenship and then ensured these were embedded throughout its culture and curriculum.
With a focus on continuous improvement, the school has embarked on a number of programs to improve student wellbeing, leadership and achievement including 2 programs for gifted students. The school’s Literacy for Learning program has led to its literacy results being the highest of any school in the Southern Region and, through the Leadership Program, many students have represented Australia in various international competitions and conferences.
Preschool Director, Burton Park Preschool
Kate ensures children get a great start in education by building their social intelligence and skilling them with an extended vocabulary to set them on the path of life-long success. As the leader of Burton Park Preschool, a large early learning centre which works with a community of 165 families, Kate believes strong literacy skills and a child’s wellbeing is uniquely intertwined in establishing a strong sense of self.
Her professional approach invests deeply in research and data analysis and her learning achievement data shows that 79% of the centre’s children reach the top two levels of Teaching Rating of Oral Language Literacy by the end of their preschool year. Kate is a strong advocate of her staff’s professional development and she consults within her portfolio to ensure best teaching practice is shared and celebrated.
Preschool Director, Lobethal Community Kindergarten
Lee is a passionate educator, who specialises in developing world-class outdoor learning experiences for children at Lobethal Community Kindergarten. Her Nature-Connect Bush Kindy program evolved from a challenge she initially set her staff to remove toys from their learning environment and replace them with tools and challenges that enhance problem-solving and emotional resilience.
The program is considered best-practice in nature play and has garnered international attention with educators travelling from Iceland, Korea and the Philippines to experience it first-hand. Lee has since shared her approach with more than a thousand educators, encouraging them to be present, reflective and critical in their interactions with children, the community and the environment.
Secondary Teacher of the Year
Specialist Mathematics Teacher, Roma Mitchell Secondary College
Amanda Pedder helps students to overcome their maths-phobia. She works hard to develop a culture of inclusive learning so students can improve and participate more actively in maths. Being wrong in her class is viewed as a learning opportunity and no question is seen as silly because it may help a fellow student.
Her quest is for all students to develop well-rounded math skills including critical thinking, analytical aptitude, problem solving and spatial abilities and she provides lunchtime tutoring and activities 4 days a week to help them feel valued and supported. An ardent supporter of professional development and a certified HAT teacher, she has also helped to build the capacity of maths teachers at the college by mentoring at least 19 of her colleagues.
Secondary teacher, Willunga High School
A design and technology teacher, Megan works extensively with her peers to redesign curriculum that allows students to connect their learning with real life experiences. By building strong relationships and developing compelling curriculum, student numbers enrolled in home economics at Willunga High School has increased, particularly in the areas of textiles and child studies.
As a differentiation/stretch coach, she’s worked collaboratively with her colleagues to develop quality teaching pedagogies and has implemented a pilot program for students with high intellectual potential.
Teacher, Loxton High School
Using her industry and community connections, Tricia helps to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs through courses that offer transferable skills and practical, real-world experiences. Her Year 10 Business Studies unit caters to 75% of the student cohort each year and develops their literacy, numeracy, ICT, critical and creative thinking capabilities. In the course, students identify customer problems, propose solutions and develop a business model.
As a chief moderator for the SACE Board, she’s helped develop best practice amongst the teaching community, mentored new teachers, and improved moderation practice. Last year, Tricia joined the team responsible for developing the Stage 1 & 2 Business Innovation curriculum. To support teachers in effectively implementing the new curriculum, she’s developed a range of best-practice materials and will continue to provide advice and practical teaching strategies.
Credit Union SA Primary Teacher of the Year
Year 5 teacher, Vale Park Primary School
A unique handshake for every student as they enter Kelly’s classroom is the first indicator of this teacher’s innovative approach. Kelly believes she must prepare her students for the 22nd century and uses unique STEM opportunities to develop her student’s entrepreneurial spirit and problem-solving acumen, while advancing their social skills so that they are empathetic, critical thinkers and ultimately, more employable individuals.
The state’s first teacher to become a Kagan Cooperative learning trainer, Kelly’s students work in teams to provide each other with critical feedback, influence what is taught and decide what is assigned for homework. She also has a fortnightly meeting with each student, discussing their STEM skills, personal goals and helps them to undertake self-assessment against agreed success criteria. Together with the student, she then documents the outcomes of the discussions in an email to parents and caregivers which enhances the partnership between home and school.
Teacher/ Senior Leader, McLaren Vale Primary School
In Matt’s classroom students take control of their learning and are supported to find their own voice. This is the result of a “thinking classroom” which better prepares students for future life and employment in a rapidly changing world. He uses a balance of teaching strategies such as open-ended tasks, inquiry-based and hands-on learning and ICT to provide an inclusive and challenging environment for all students.
A collaborator with his students and peers alike, he has a passion for connecting educators to benefit students. Matt has developed multiple social media groups for teachers based at his school, in South Australia and internationally and it has grown into a 17,000-strong community of educators who actively exchange ideas on best teaching practice.
Teacher / Visible Learning Impact Coach, Renmark Primary School
Champion for change, Sofy is a passionate classroom teacher and Visible Learning Impact Coach. Using evidence and research, she shares visible learning strategies to empower success and confidence in her colleagues, allowing them to become evaluators of their own teaching.
Students in Sofys’ classroom know why and what they are learning and they understand what success looks like which supports them to set their own goals and seek directed feedback. The commitment by her peers and education community to explore and develop this approach is a reflection of the authentic culture that Sofy nurtures.
Early Years Teacher of the Year
Preschool Teacher / Co-Educational Leader, Craigmore Kindergarten
In the past 3 years, Anna has led the development of an on-site bush kindy. More than 200 seedlings have been planted alongside a frog pond, wetland area, yarning circle, fire pit, bird boxes, bug hotels and a digging patch which have all been created by the hands of the children in collaboration with their educators and their families.
As its founders, the children have a strong sense of belonging with the space, embracing the endless opportunity to learn and explore through nature play while also advancing their wellbeing, literacy and numeracy skills. Dedicated to her staff’s and colleagues’ professional development, Anna regularly works with local educators in maths and numeracy learning and how it can be explored using the pedagogy of nature play.
Reception Teacher, Gawler and District College B-12
With some of her young students experiencing disadvantage and at times, trauma, Peta’s classroom places a high emphasis on positive psychology and wellbeing by providing an environment for students to feel safe, relaxed and ready to learn. Mindfulness techniques are used after each play break and incorporated in regular brain breaks throughout the day, while her approach is targeted to every child’s individual needs.
Recognising the transition from pre-school to reception was critical to a student’s overall experience of education, she developed a more effective partnership which sees reception teachers making frequent visits to the local preschool and students participating in shared visits and collaborative play sessions. Peta uses new ways to engage families in their child’s education, bridging the gap between home and school. The results have been overwhelmingly positive with students and their families viewing the move to reception as an exciting change rather than one filled with fear and anxiety.
Early Years Educator and Learning Coordinator (Reading), Lobethal Primary School
Rebecca hopes her support of outdoor learning will establish her students as proud caretakers of the local park and its surrounding environment. As an early years teacher, she’s helped develop the Bush School Program which connects science and geography lessons with outdoor exploration. For her reception/year one class she established The Nook, which offers both a private space to allow for quiet reflection and activities.
The space provides calming support to students with challenging behaviours as well as a range of learning activities such as reading, sand and water play and cross-age peer play. In her role as a learning coordinator, she invests in students who are capable of excelling by supporting them to extend their skills especially in reading and is also committed to improving her colleague’s professional learning at her site.
School and Preschool Support Award
School Services Officer, Tumby Bay Area School
Annette has a keen interest in developing students’ mathematics skills and confidence. Students who previously struggled with maths love the Quicksmart Numeracy and Too Smart Maths intervention programs that Annette delivers, and have become more active and confident learners in the classroom.
Annette is deeply involved in the school community, not only did she offer to manage the canteen as a volunteer, so the school wouldn’t lose the service, she has also helped to implement the new uniform in collaboration with students as well as developing the school’s STEM action group, raising the profile of STEM learning across the school and the community.
Aboriginal Child Education Officer, Renmark Primary School
Christine believes establishing good attendance from a student’s early years sets high expectations for their learning. She actively promotes kindy enrolments and is a supportive advisor to students and their families as they transition from kindy to primary school and high school.
She is passionate about ensuring access to high-quality education regardless of socio-economic or cultural background and works in partnership with the students, families and strategic partners to best support them at school and home.
School Services Officer, Wandana Preschool – Year 7
Sue works closely with families to close the gap in education and health services to enable better futures for young people. Through her involvement in the Torren’s Partnership’s Engagement and Wellbeing, Policy Into Practice Initiative, she helps to provide vital links to allied health services such as psychologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists.
Working predominantly with students who experience difficult social and emotional challenges, she ensures young people have a strong and supportive start to learning. Sue goes above and beyond in her role – delivering a literacy program, engaging early learners in a social skills program, facilitating a breakfast club and contributing to the student intervention team.
System Excellence Award
Early Career Teacher Development Program, People and Culture
The team connects with thousands of new teachers in what can be a challenging transition into the profession, as well as supporting their career progression from ‘Graduate’ to ‘Proficient’.
Online resources, face-to-face workshops and comprehensive guides for school and preschool leaders and mentors have helped build new teachers’ confidence, capabilities and expertise, which in turn improves outcomes for our students. The successful program has received national recognition and was profiled by David Gonski as a case study support program for teachers starting out in their career.
Learning Together @ Home, Inner North (Enfield)
Learning Together @ Home educators focus on the importance of creating positive emotional connections between parents and children under 4, and work with referred families with a range of diverse needs, which may include learning delays, physical health, diverse backgrounds, mental illness, isolation and trauma.
The program recognises the first 3 years in a child’s development is vital in influencing their lifelong trajectory to help develop confident, curious, communicative, persistent and resilient learners. Each family receives regular home visits so parents can be supported to positively interact and establish good habits with their child through play, reading and singing.
Accessible Format Production, SA School for Vision Impaired
This highly skilled team plays a vital role in ensuring fairness for all, so that vision impaired students have the same access to curriculum materials as their peers. Their motto, ‘the right book, in the right medium, at the right time’, sums up the core of their work.
The team takes on the enormous task of producing textbooks and allied curriculum materials for vision impaired students at all levels of schooling from birth to year 12, across all subject areas including science, mathematics, language and music, and in a range of media including braille, large/clear print, electronic documents, tactile drawings and diagrams. They have also produced teaching resources for educators and families of vision-impaired students who wish to learn braille.
Aunty Josie Agius Award
Wellbeing Coordinator, Anangu Education Services Ernabella
Katrina proudly shares her Anangu culture and Pitjantjatjara language and believes “when we speak a strong language, it makes our spirits strong and proud”. Co-delivering the Families Are First Teachers training program, Katrina teaches uses paintings and stories. She supports teachers to work respectfully with families, to understand language and culture, and through her teaching helps to prepare new teachers for the reality of living and teaching in Anangu communities.
Along with the Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Education Committee, she worked with Carclew to document children’s Inma (song and dance) and Walka (meaningful marks and on the body). Travelling throughout the remote communities she worked with elders and Carclew to record their storytelling, and together they produced a resource book and DVDs which are used in teaching.
Aboriginal Secondary Education Transition Officer, Mount Barker High School and Oakbank Area School
As Mount Barker High School and Oakbank Area School’s Aboriginal Secondary Education Transition Officer, Ros is dedicated to building meaningful connections with her students and their families. Her greatest strength is her ability to collaborate with community groups to deliver various arts programs which connect the students with their culture.
Ros believes that identity is the foundation to having a healthy sense of belonging and wellbeing and regularly connects with Peramangk Elders to involve them in the school’s major events to support her students. This approach has included an Aboriginal painting workshop for her student’s families as a way to engage their community in their education.
Walk Along Initiative
Aboriginal Education Directorate
The team provides invaluable support for Aboriginal children and their families from the APY, Maralinga and Tjuratja Lands to re-engage in schooling following a move to the city. They respond to the immediate needs of families to minimise trauma and stress in their lives through holistic case management and coordination with the selected schools or preschools in metropolitan Adelaide.
Their work can include arranging reliable transport and accommodation when necessary. The team has also been instrumental in the creation of the Anangu Bilingual Student Support role, which supports Anangu students in overcoming language barriers that impact literacy and numeracy achievement.’
Community Engagement Award
Data, Operations and Community Team Leader, Wirreanda Secondary School
Establishing a community garden at Wirreanda Secondary School has allowed Kerry to nurture a greater connection between students, families and local charities. With the aim of providing a caring and inclusive environment for students to participate in external learning, the garden has had a significant impact across all year levels while also encouraging them to make healthy, sustainable lifestyle choices through the school’s Eat Right approach.
For some students, the garden has also provided the chance to cook its produce for their Street Food project which is then sold weekly to the broader school community. Others have produced plant-based meals which have been delivered to young homeless people in partnership with Ladder and Forage Supply Co. A Wirreanda graduate has also been employed as a trainee horticulturist who is now supporting the school’s disability unit and special class students to care for the garden’s upkeep.
Mount Gambier High School Music Program
Mount Gambier High School’s music program hit a high note in 2018 after undergoing significant transformation. After establishing a Combined Schools Band and Extended Vocal Group, new relationships were fostered with schools within the Blue Lake Partnership and the James Morrison Academy – the latter offering a successful 2-way mentor relationship between students.
This has improved the range of music options for students and increased their involvement in extra-curricular activities and ensured greater retention within the music program. The standard of performance has also been raised to competitions level, with the school taking part in this year’s Generations in Jazz international competition for the first time.
Paint the Inner West REaD
The program engages children and the community in a uniquely fun way to ensure children develop a strong foundation in oral language and early literacy development. Starting with an egg, the community must help the egg grow and hatch by singing, dancing, talking, drawing and reading to it daily.
The egg travels to preschools, child care centres, playgroups and libraries and over the weeks the egg grows as it’s nurtured by the community. Since 2015, the program has connected more than 3500 children and families to positively engage children’s early literacy skills.
Innovation in Practice Award
Senior leader numeracy and mathematics, Urrbrae Agricultural High School
Mark believes maths is the language of life and he aspires for all students to realise its beauty and powerful influence in everyday life. As a recognised maths champion, Mark is continuously striving for new ways to add to his student’s positive experience of the subject. Some of his initiatives include a lunchtime club for students who need extra support, the introduction of math scholarships and encouraging more students to enter into competitions and quiz nights, with up to 60 students entering every year.
Mark has been instrumental in leading teacher professional development across 4 schools and facilitates a collaborative review of maths, pedagogy and resources to ensure consistency, excellence and innovation across the high schools.
Science specialist, Two Wells Primary School
Previously an engineer in the defence industry, Mike uses his specialist skills to implement an innovative STEM program within his school. His projects encourage thought-provoking learning and have even included helping his students work towards putting a science experiment aboard the International Space Station as part of the SA Schools Space Mission.
With the aim of wanting his students to embrace their natural inquisitiveness, his classroom has a touch table which engages them about the natural world and encourages them to find things they would typically find mundane. As an extracurricular, Mike is also involved in managing a Lego League robotics team, creating an opportunity for students who want to pursue STEM learning in a fun and competitive environment.
Director, Barmera Kindergarten
Poor student engagement prompted Amy’s decision to develop a bush kindy program at Barmera Kindergarten which now boasts attendance above the state average. Using the Respect, Reflect and Relate engagement and well-being scales, Amy has observed increased resilience and persistence among her students who have transformed from cautious climbers to spirited adventurers, inquisitive of their natural surroundings.
She also altered their pedagogical approach to learning spaces, making the kindergarten more inviting and child-focused, which allows the children to direct their own learning. Amy also supports her staff through professional development and constructive discussion which has resulted in a significant pedagogical shift.
Performance Through Values Award
Performance Improvement team
People and Culture
Going the extra mile for the best outcomes the Performance Improvement team are committed to providing a comprehensive service that supports site leaders with expert human resource advice. The team has transformed its model to ensure a consistent approach, through one to one case management services, personalised support and the delivery of workshops at a site, partnership and agency level.
Not only is the team able to demonstrate improved systems outcomes as a result of their work, but also feedback from leaders has been overwhelmingly positive, with many stating they are more confident and willing to manage complex issues within their teams and experience improved educational outcomes as a result.
Principal, John Pirie Secondary School
A passionate site leader who regularly demonstrates the values of courage and tenacity, Roger has led the transformation of John Pirie Secondary School to become a school of choice within the community, with a clear focus on improvement through quality teaching and learning.
Known for his authentic style and willingness to tackle difficult challenges, Roger has galvanised his staff with his dynamic vision which sets high expectations and clearly articulates the importance of their roles in a large school which is both complex and diverse. As chairperson of the Pirie Partnership, Roger is a valuable support to all education leaders and highly regarded for his commitment to building better futures for all of the area’s young people.
Principal, Wirreanda Secondary School
Caroline exemplifies all of the public sector’s values, especially what it means to be a professional. As principal of Wirreanda Secondary School, she’s routinely set a high bar for her leaders and lifted the school’s performance through structural and cultural reform. Her team has collectively led changes to the timetable and expectations on how staff collaborate and has resulted in teachers meeting in small huddles that are personal and relevant to each professional’s learning needs.
Parents and the community are consulted on the school’s culture, and outside experts are used to help the learning come alive for students. Generous in sharing her insights – including on social media – her colleagues across the sector remark that her leadership inspires action through practical change.