Congratulations to the winners and finalists in this year’s Public Education Awards!
These awards recognise and showcase excellence in 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.
Parents, families and communities all play a significant role in supporting children and young people. As active participants in our education system, the public nomination process for the awards allows everyone to get involved and say thank you to an educator that’s made a difference in their lives.
Teachers Health Leadership Award
Winner – Rebecca Huddy, Principal, Westport Primary School and Preschool
A sizable lift in NAPLAN scores and growing enrolments are graphic evidence of the positive influence Rebecca has had on her school over the past 9 years. Her unrelenting focus on teaching quality, intimate personal understanding of individual student progress and strong community engagement has made hers a school of choice.
Rebecca Huddy: When I arrived at Westport we were pretty small, and numbers were declining. There was a bit of a culture of low expectations, so we worked really hard to grow the school, lift expectations, and lift the academic results. So a really rigorous focus on recruiting amazing people to be in front of the kids was a focus for myself. As a result I guess over the last nine years it's a long, long journey but we've now gone basically in our academic results to be at, or above our of the national mean, which is fantastic, and we've doubled in size in in enrolment.
Student, Lilly: So my most memorable Mrs Huddy moment would be when she came on stage, when some students were doing 'Westport's Got Talent' and appeared with a mask and started doing Irish dancing, it was like really, really funny.
Student, Eleanor: Mrs Huddy walks around school and tries to be the best principal, but Mrs Huddy doesn't need to try, because she already is the best.
Finalist – Lauren Poole, Principal, Palmer Primary School
Shared construction, ownership and accountability, underpinned by a fearless examination of data, are the hallmarks of Lauren’s leadership. Her whole of school Literacy Agreement, developed in collaboration and jointly owned, has delivered tremendous growth in literacy across the student cohort. The introduction of learning teams that celebrate learning milestones, student goals and resilience is supporting academic growth and student wellbeing.
Lauren Poole: Palmer Primary School is a really unique small beautiful community school. We have 31 students, two classes. So Reception to Year 3, and Year 3 - 7. I have quite a large teaching component, which is really important to me because I get to keep in touch with the latest research methods and keep my teaching the best it can be, so it's great when I want to try a new initiatives I get to do it and lead by example with my staff.
Katrina Duits, teacher: As a principal I would say that she is very proactive. Whenever we have a need in some area of our school, so whether it be behaviour, curriculum, she's always the first one to come up with ideas, or to help us out in any way.
Bethany, student: She helps us with our learning and she doesn't want us to give up.
Lauren Poole: I think that's been the biggest thing over the last four years is just really encouraging students it's okay to feel uncomfortable in your learning and not know the answer straight away, but we're going to get you deep into the learning pit, but we're also going to help you get out there and, celebrate each of those successes so that when that next scary, big learning moment comes along they've got their skills and they're gonna be they're gonna be okay.
Katrina Duits, teacher: I think she's brought to so much passion to this school. The whole community knows how much she cares about all the students and the school and how much she wants us to improve in the future.
Finalist – Meredith Edwards, Principal, Woodville High School
Meredith’s commitment to the philosophy of "think globally, act locally" has created a learning environment that the Council of International Schools commends as a standout for its profound commitment to ensuring positive education outcomes. Her long-term commitment to trialling innovative approaches to school improvement and approaches to teaching and learning, coupled with a strong belief in the power of collaboration, has helped identify effective, scalable processes for delivering growth in student achievement and wellbeing.
Meredith Edwards: Being a principal in a richly diverse, but challenging school like Woodville high school involves the principal and hands-on support for student well-being, support for student behaviour management, but the bigger picture thing to give a legacy for the students is making sure the curriculum is interesting, that the teaching and learning involves students and helps them to take control of their own learning. It also involves finance, staffing, and facilities.
Fiona Feetham, learning hub manager: Meredith is that special mix of professional and fun. She has the big picture, and she also knows the finer details.
Munsha Tatla, teacher: She's brave, she's honest, and she's just, as an educator, she is inspirational, as a leader as well.
Meredith Edwards: I've been the principal of Woodville high school since 2004, so it's almost like generations of students, therefore you have an impact on families and the community, and that's really important.
Secondary Teacher of the Year
Winner – Justine Fogden, Agriculture teacher, Loxton High School
Over the past 20 years Justine has established herself as a leader in agriculture teaching. Combining innovative teaching practice with an ever-expanding network of industry contacts, her students have entrepreneurial mindsets, job-ready skills and a myriad of opportunities to take advantage of them. A system-wide thinker, her work includes mentoring beginning agriculture teachers and membership of the writing panel for the SACE agriculture course.
Justine Fogden: So as the Ag teacher here I manage the Ag block, plan all the lessons, make sure that we're complying with all the industry regulations, and making sure that we are providing some really good opportunities for kids. There's a massive shortage of people in agriculture at the moment. There's lots and lots of jobs, so I see my role as as teaching kids to appreciate food and fibre, and making sure that we have some kids keen to go into that industry in the future.
David Garrett, Principal: Because of her work in the agriculture industry herself, she's really aware of innovation that's happening across the state, in those industries, and she actually brings that know-how into the school, so she's looking at how technology can be used to really push agriculture forward in our school.
Justine Fogden: I guess I'm making a difference by engaging kids that are really practically minded, but also giving them some really good career opportunities. I've had students go off to university and study agriculture and have some fantastic careers from that.
Finalist – Brenden Baldock, Teacher, Glossop High School
Brenden’s innovative, technology rich approach leaves students in no doubt of the real world application of their studies. From live broadcasting interschool events, to producing a weekly football show alongside local media identities, students are researching, planning, problem solving and being stretched toward their potential. His approach maximises learning opportunities and benefits the wider community.
Brenden Baldock: I'm Brenden Baldock, I'm the music and media teacher at Glossop High School. I teach music, and work with the band, and our students do lots of community events, supporting the activities that happen in the Riverland. We have a media crew that support school activities, and also then are hosting their own, and broadcasting their own football show with local media industry, and we use drones for both our media classes, and for things in agriculture.
Emily Griggs, Principal: Brenden is really student focused in every type of learning that he develops for the students, he takes what students are passionate about and really develops programs around to support that passion, and that's actually what really drives effective relationships that he has with students, parents, and the community.
Brenden Baldock: So in the future I look forward to seeing students, they're about to livestream the RFL Grand Final, which is really exciting for us. They're about to do some mapping work with local action planning groups around Malleefowl, and then our musicians continue to entertain in our community.
Finalist – Sam Moyle, Science and other technologies teacher, Brighton Secondary School
Sam makes “bigger than big ideas” a reality, with a superbly engaging approach that delivers high rates of retention to senior sciences and excellent ATAR results. Individualised approaches are the hallmark of her work, with a depth and quality of feedback that supports outstanding outcomes. Sam’s work building teaching capacity at a site, system and national level marks her as a leader.
Sam Moyle: My main focus is the integration of learning, so taking the subjects that students traditionally feel are separate, and in silos, and combining them into projects, and so the Think Bright Program is really focused on that. The team work to integrate across the different year levels, and also the different subjects, so we've got a year ten forensics unit going on at the moment, which is collaboration between Science, Maths and English.
Charlene McGrath, senior leader learning improvement primary and pedagogy coach: Sam is a passionate teacher because she really believes in the importance of Science and Science education for her students, and that comes through in all of her teaching and all of her interactions with the kids.
Gerald Little, teacher: Sam as the teacher is very engaging. You always know when students are in a class because they come out and they have something to share with you.Sam Moyle: I'm always looking for approaches that are fun, that engage students, that give them options to diversify with their own particular interest within a topic, and opening their eyes to new avenues they perhaps haven't considered before.
Credit Union SA Primary Teacher of the Year
Winner – Karen Schilling, Year 6/7 teacher, Tintinara Area School
Karen uses data to create shared ownership of learning, delivering impressive lift in outcomes at an individual student and site level. An open presentation of data in the classroom sees students set their own areas for improvement, increasing engagement and lifting results. The whole school data wall she introduced in 2016 supports a shared commitment to high impact, effective teaching practice.
Karen Schilling: Tintanara area school is located about two and a half hours from Adelaide and we are a preschool to year 12 so I'm working to improve student outcomes in maths with pre and post-testing in small group differentiation and this together with some intervention programs in maths is stoned to make a real difference for students in a short space of time I like working with other teachers I like working with them on like early career teachers working with them to show them how to use the data to inform their planning.
Jacqui Vandeleur, assistant principal: Karen is very diligent she's really friendly approach to school in a very professional manner just doesn't describe the surface level she goes really deep in everything I hope programs her planning is meticulous she really knows every one of her kids in her class.
Karen Schilling: When you are teaching and you're asking the right questions and you see them make the connection between one part of their learning and another that's really rewarding to see their faces light up when they realize that put those ideas together.
Finalist – Catharine Carlin, Teacher, Brighton Primary School
With a passion for creating an inclusive learning environment for all students, especially students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Catharine has seized every opportunity to increase her own knowledge and share it with fellow teachers and families. This has reduced feelings of isolation, resulting in improved engagement and outcomes. Her expertise in wellbeing is shared with colleagues, increasing student resilience.
Catharine Carlin: I am the coordinator of the Centre for Deaf Education. I am also classroom teacher within a CDE, so I have deaf students in my classroom, as well as mainstream students.
Kelly Selboskar, parent: Catharine as a teacher is terrific, absolutely terrific with the kids. I'm not the only parent who feels that way in her class, we've all got kids,well a lot of us have got kids that have special needs, and she relates to the kids in a completely different way to what we've seen before. She does a lot of outside study, that she brings into the classroom, and she's been able to create such a great sense of fun and feeling with the kids, the kids relate so well to her.
Lucas Lane, teacher: When I'll have a conversation with her if she knows that I'm trying to learn a bit of sign or something like that she'll stop mid conversation, and she will start signing to me to kind of throw me off a little bit to keep me on my toes.
Catharine Carlin: The most rewarding part for me is the fact that, I guess every day I come to school and I'm happy because I know that I have an opportunity to change something, or to work with a student, or maybe get a message across that they didn't understand before, to teach and you know to work with students, that's just the greatest.
Finalist – James Martin, Teacher, Two Wells Primary School
The designer of a dedicated technology facility where students explore and create, James is expertly engaging students with STEM through programs such as international Lego robotics competitions and an annual Go Kart Grand Prix. James is tuned into each student’s needs and strengths and his individualised learning approach helps them routinely achieve and exceed their goals.
James Martin: I love working with the kids because I like seeing them grasp concepts for the first time, and pick up things that have really been struggling with, you know those little 'aha moments' that you get throughout the day. Building the relationships with them, and seeing a child go from being timid at the start of the year, to being glowing and full of confidence by the end, it just gives you a real sense of satisfaction in what you're doing.
Zoe Evans, student wellbeing leader: He is always there for his students, and what makes him such a superstar is that not only does he lift their results, but he cares about their wellbeing.
James Martin: In my role as a teacher, I like to think back to my childhood and my school experience, and you sort of think of things 'oh man, I wish I could have done that when I was in school' and so I try and make those a reality for my students, and that's where go-kart stemmed from. In terms of math learning as well, you know I can remember sitting in the copying sums out of a book, that's just how it was done then, so I try and make sure all my children have hands-on things to do, and they've got practical applications for the theory that's taught in class.
Early Years Teacher of the Year
Winner – Sharnie Jamieson, Year 1 teacher, Glenelg Primary School
Significant improvement in students reading assessment data speaks to the effectiveness of Sharnie’s teaching approach. She combines meticulous data analysis with evidence based methodology, implementing the most effective and up-to-date teaching and learning practices. With a view to whole-school improvement, she has helped lead her school’s early years literacy program, sharing her expertise with both her school colleagues and those further afield.
Sharnie Jamieson: I’ve done a lot of learning in how to teach students with Dyslexia. I've bought my knowledge from those trainings into my classroom practice to provide students with explicit, systematic, multi-sensory learning experiences. So I do that through an explicit direct instruction model, so that's where the focus is I do, we do, and you do. So I explicitly teach the students the skills that they need to be able to be successful in that learning task, together we practice, so the students are working with me, in that and I'm able to give them immediate feedback, so no child is left behind. Once the students grasp that skill, then they're given opportunities to independently apply their knowledge to given tasks.
Rae Taggart, principal: She's bright and bubbly, both the kids and the parents can see how committed she is to learning.
Sharnie Jamieson: Those moments where children realise that they can do it, that they are successful, they see themselves as learners, and that they can apply their skills to different learning tasks, they're the moments that I come to school for, that's what I work really hard for, and I want that for every child.
Finalist – Lisa Watkins, Special education teacher, Swallowcliffe School P-7
Teaching in a complex, Category 1 school Lisa’s work supporting communication, social skills and sensory/ emotional regulation is central to facilitating learning. Through the expert use of interoception and the introduction of Augmentative and Alternative Communication she has reduced challenging behaviours and increased student wellbeing. With a strong commitment to personal professional development, Lisa also stands out for her willingness to share expertise.
Lisa Watkins: So I teach students from reception to year two, all with disabilities. Because I get them when they're first coming to school, I am particularly passionate about setting them up for success, in not only their future learning, but also their lives outside of school. So for my students, a big part of that is developing communication skills, and focusing on the sensory and emotional regulation.
Penny Sweeney, early years senior leader: I think Lisa's making a difference at Swallowcliffe with the knowledge that she brings, and the way in which she can mentor new teachers, and also teachers that may have a different role within the school. She's been really supportive with that.
Lisa Watkins: So I introduced augmentative and alternative communication systems into the school. We use key word sign, and visual communication systems, and a speech generating device with my students, and through that I've seen a huge growth in them, and it's really powerful to see them understand that they can be effective communicators, and to build those connections with each other, and with their learning.
James, student using a speech generating device: Miss Lisa best teacher!
Finalist – Sharona Blake, Teacher, Blakeview Primary School
Combining outstanding teaching practice with a passion for engagement and collaboration, Sharona exemplifies leadership in a team environment. Instrumental in helping her school to implement effective reading and literacy strategies, she has also played a key role in designing improved transition processes from preschool to school, helping students get off to a flying start.
Sharon Blake: So I previously worked in a remote country town for 13 years, and it was really evident that building relationships with students and staff, and making connections with families, and the community is essential in the development of nurturing and educating children. So I've worked hard here at Blakeview by collaborating with staff and families for a smoother transition from kindy, and developing whole school literacy agreements.
Peri Simpson, assistant principal: She's highly motivated, engaging and positive, and she always brings a sense of belonging within the classroom.
Tash, parent: My son Dominic is in reception with Sharona this year, and he absolutely loves his class. He is loving going up in his literacy goals, and his sight words and phonics.
Sharon Blake: So my focus is establishing individual learning goals, which is a really powerful tool for children to empower their own learning.
School and Preschool Support Award
Winner – Trent Heneker, Facilities and grounds, Nuriootpa High School
Keeping Nuriootpa HS’s grounds immaculate is the starting point for Trent, who looks for ways to unlock the learning potential of his work. Whether it’s engaging students with disability in landscaping projects, creating a ‘Young Environmentalist Group’ or supporting colleagues to manage disruptive behavioural issues, he brings the classroom outdoors. Trent is leading a vineyard upgrade to support the school’s viticulture program. Also as a professional musician, Trent shares his industry knowledge and experience to support the music department and students.
Trent Heneker: My role, I'm responsible for the beautification, maintenance and construction of multiple landscape projects. As an extension to my role here at Nuriootpa High School, I work closely with the disability units, providing support and encouragement with various programs around the school. I also work closely with the music department, utilising my skills as a professional musician with engaging skills with performance, end of year assemblies, and concerts. For me it's about school pride, it's about creating engaged positive learning environments for staff and students.
Leanne Kitson, special education teacher: He's very friendly. Everybody knows who Trent is. He's welcoming to everybody. I think it gives everybody pride in our school if it's tidy, and if it's clean and beautiful, people enjoy that space a lot more and want to use it.
Trent Heneker: As a leadership role I work one-on-one with students in a viticulture setting; doing pruning, and viticultural maintenance. I've also taken another leadership role in the implementation and design in the Nurihannam viticultural redevelopment upgrade for 2019/2020.
Finalist – Amanda Solly, School services officer, Goolwa Primary School
Amanda’s well researched, evidence-based interventions, coupled with her ability to make students feel safe and ready to learn, has markedly improved numeracy outcomes in her school. At upper primary, participants recorded 2-3 year’s growth in 12 months. At year 3, she helped 6 out of 7 students identified as needing specialist help to achieve above the National Minimum Standard in NAPLAN numeracy.
Amanda Solly: I provide support to students in a range of ways, some of that is in-class support, just helping them to engage in the learning that the teacher has set for them, and some of that is through specific intervention programs, so things like QuickSmart and TooSmart numeracy, and sometimes it's more in line with their social and emotional wellbeing, things like drumbeat intervention programs.
Louisa Guest: She really takes time to get to know all the students that she works with, you know what drives them, what their motivators are, and she uses that to support them to be their best, to try their hardest every day, and you know she's working with some of our most challenging students, and she just brings out the best in them, and in everyone on staff as well.
Amanda Solly: Definitely hoping to strengthen my literacy support skill set, that's not something that I've got under my belt at the moment, and I can see that's an area that I can work on, and I'd really like to continue to work with my colleagues on our whole school approach to interoceptive awareness; so getting kids to understand the messages their bodies are telling them. It's really rewarding when you see a child go from only being able to cope with a part-day of school, to finishing a whole day, and finishing their whole week.
Finalist – Belinda Tilley, Pastoral care worker wellbeing, Allendale East Area School
Belinda has introduced focussed social emotional learning as a key component in her schools behaviour management and student wellbeing. Her successful approach, which includes creating an original framework for teaching individual students self-equity as well as delivering broader SEL literacy across her school, equipping colleagues with the tools, resources and techniques to facilitate positive behavioural change, is now being shared with other schools. Students are reporting greater self-awareness, more positive self-perception and a greater sense of their own and their peers worth.
Belinda Tilley: Well the Pastoral Care worker roles in every school slightly different obviously according to who the person is, but in our school they were looking for some social-emotional learning support, and working with behaviour management, and so that's become my prime role, because it's something I'm very interested in. So I work with Kimochis, and the well-being classroom, but I've also written my own program for the older age group; year 5/6 called 'I, myself', which helps young people to train their self-equity, self-worth, self-confidence, self-belief, and to know that they truly are enough.
Bronwyn, parent: Belinda is an incredibly passionate, caring, and inspiring person in our school community.
Kylie Smith, principal: Belinda brings a lot of vibrant energy, she goes out and sources funding for us, she goes out and talks to the community, she brings the community in to us, and she's just full of energy. We're really lucky to have her.
Rudy Furlong, pastor: I think the children's comments that I've heard is what's making the difference. I think the fact that they feel valued.
Ruby, student: I used to think I was worthless until I started to have Belinda's lessons a lot more, and the last turn realised that everybody has their own value, and that I am valuable.
System Excellence Award
Winner – Social Work Incident Support Service, Flinders Park education office
The highly trained team provides direct consultation, support and advice to sites in response to hundreds of critical incidents each year, promoting the wellbeing of students in the wake of traumatic events and are instrumental in restoring calm following serious trauma. The team provide a duty line, onsite support and training packages that equip sites to manage vulnerable students with skilled and empathetic interventions. This enhances learner wellbeing which facilitates positive learning outcomes.
Leanne Davies, team leader: The Social Work Incident Support Service, or the SWISS team, is a statewide a Social Work team which supports school sites with critical incidents, which can impact on student wellbeing.
Toni Carellas, former acting principal: Earlier this year our school went through the most unthinkable tragedy where two of our students were involved in a tragic car accident, 1 of those students was seriously injured, and the other students sadly died. The SWISS team were available at every opportunity to come and support our students and our staff, but also the wider community. It was an event that no school would would want to ever go through, and if it wasn't for the support of the SWISS team, we would never have been able to get through this alone, and in the balanced way that we did.
Leanne Davies, team leader: So we are supporting site leadership and school staff to support the mental health of young people on sites. We are giving them the confidence to manage those students in a protective fashion, which enhances their wellbeing.
Finalist – STEM Aboriginal Student Congress design team, Learning Improvement
The only event of its kind in Australia, the STEM Aboriginal Student Congress has become a marquee annual occasion. In 2019, over 500 Aboriginal students connected with 90 STEM experts from across Australia to explore the relationships between traditional knowledge, culture and STEM. With the goal of investigating STEM in the context of Aboriginal knowledge, perspectives and voice, participants reported a positive shift in their dispositions toward STEM and an increased likelihood of studying STEM subjects.
Alex Semmens, project officer pedagogy: The STEM Aboriginal Congress Design Team is responsible for putting on the congress each year. It's predominantly supporting young people, as this is a student designed and lead event. So the Design Team consists of project officers, like myself, it consists of a group of undergraduates, but most importantly it's a group of students, so these students think really deeply about the congress that they want to put on, they work really hard to make sure the event captures teaching and learning that's relevant to them, and then on the day those students host the event. They're the ones that run workshops, the ones that deliver the data to the other students, and I guess the role of the rest of the design team is making sure that their ideas and their vision, their aim can come to be for their peers.
Molly Turnbull, student undergraduate mentor: Being a part of the student congress makes me feel amazing, just because you get to see people change over time, and it's just their faces, and the way they want to learn now is amazing.
Pantju Nam, student undergraduate mentor: So making sure we focus on bringing the workshops to like, the most relevant, and make sure we're engaging the kids as best we can, and giving them the biggest range of activities.
Alex Semmens, project officer pedagogy: The most exciting thing for me with the congress is seeing young Aboriginal students just absoloutely thrive in a high-expectation and culturally safe environment.
Finalist – Upscaling teacher collective efficacy and learner impact, Inner West and Torrens partnership
The team is at the forefront of translating research into high impact, self-sustaining improvement in teaching practice that delivers measurable growth in learner outcomes. The approach, which began in 2018 with a trial of 40 year 4-5 teachers, has been scaled up to inform the practice of 450 educators at a partnership level, and led to the development of a model that can be applied to all sites.
Daniel Balacco, principal consultant: In 2018 we started with 40 teachers, in the year 3-5 space. We brought them together, basically to look at teacher action research cycles, focused on a really targeted specific learner outcome. Looking at the use of robust research, implementing new strategies in a really consistent discipline way, and then reviewing that. We know that there are a lot of things that make a difference in education, so how do we support our teachers to grow professionally, and also make an impact on learners, and now we're looking at that teacher collective efficacy research, and looking at ways to grow that.
Tina Treffers, principal: What I have taken back to my site is a process that can be transferable to a site level.
Daniel Pearce, principal: Our students capability in reading had been on the decline, we've actually scored our best scores in four years, as far as NAPLAN is concerned, so we're rather proud of the the work that our staff have done, in order to see the change in students, and understanding concepts in reading.
Fiona Voigt, principal: Nearly 48% of my classroom teachers have actually been participants in this process, and what I've actually seen is for them, they become so much more skilled in actually leading their colleagues.
Daniel Balacco, principal consultant: So what we've done is we've taken it from 40 teachers, to this year up to 450 teachers, and that started at the beginning of the year, and so now if I go back into those schools, I'm now seeing those cycles of improvement, and those teacher teams collaborating more than they have before.
Community Engagement Award
Winner – Lucy Standish, Teacher, Kilparrin Teaching and Assessment School and Services
Forging a partnership that sees students with multiple disabilities learning alongside an international composer and music educator, the Australian Youth Orchestra, and a violinist from London Symphony Orchestra, Lucy uses the power of music to celebrate inclusivity. Her 'music for all' philosophy, combined with an outstanding ability to connect with other schools, councils and community, instils in students a sense of passion and purpose.
Lucy Standish: Kilparrin is a school for students with multiple disabilities and with hearing and/or vision impairments as well, so we have about 6 students in each class and we have a teacher with 2 or 3 SSOs to support the students in the classroom. The students at Kilparrin love music. They come in and they are so excited to sing the hello song and to get into the lessons. They like to make lots of choices with their instruments. So the name of the project is the music for all project and we were able to find a book that we could compose music to, so the book was fancy pants by Kelly Hibbert and Amanda Graham. We met with Kelly and she was really excited and we had workshops to create the music and then on the final day we put it all together in a performance at the Marion Cultural Center.
Cathy Roche-Wells, principal: The joy that it brings the whole school community it's about the students and the celebration that their families can participate in something like music with their children.
Finalist – Iwantja Children and Family Centre, Indulkana Anangu School
A collaborative approach to programs, with meaningful input from families and the wider community, has quadrupled daily attendance in the last 4 years, and seen 100% of Indulkana Community children aged birth to 5 enrolled in a program. Putting culture and family at the centre of everything they do has created a service which is truly responsive to community needs.
Natalie Bajcic, educator: Welcome to the Iwantja Children and Family Centre. We are located in Indulkana, in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands. We run a program called 'families as first teachers', and it's a program that really centres on family engagement, with a focus on language.
Nikki Press, educator: I love my job so much, I get to work alongside some of the most wonderful ladies, who are so open and sharing with their knowledge and their culture, and the children are so wonderful and the families are great. The families just want to come and support us as educators, they want us to know the best ways to teach their children, and so they're so open with giving us that knowledge.
Sally Cullinan, Anangu educator: My name is Sally. I work in the Family Centre. This is my home/country.
Leonie Cullinan, Anangu educator: I'm from Indulkana, and I work in preschool, and my favorite part; tjurkpa (dreaming stories). I tell (dreaming stories) and the children play [act them out] with toys.
Natalie Bajcic, educator: The reason I think that the Iwantja Children and Family Centre is making a difference, is because it is such a responsive pedagogy. So in here, Anangu children are honored to be Anangu children, and Anangu families are honored to be Anangu families, and you know this is such an important step in reconciliation, that within this community that is where learning starts.
Finalist – Way to Play, Port Augusta Children's Centre
Way to Play is an hour long community radio show combining entertainment with information to promote early childhood education services to Aboriginal families. Developed with Port Augusta’s Aboriginal community and featuring elders and community members sharing stories and singing in language, the innovative celebration of culture has increased enrolments by reaching out to families who find it difficult to connect to services.
Mandy Dempsey, director: Way to Play is an early years radio program. So it's on Umeewarra radio, so it's on a community radio station. It's for Aboriginal families, and it's for families to access early years education and information about health and well-being as well, and what's available for them in the community. We've involved a local preschool so that they do singing on the show, we've got school students telling jokes and reading books.
Dre Ngatokorua, broadcaster: You know since Port Augusta such, got a high amount of young people in here, and they're growing up, I think it's important to let them hear what, you know, what the kids want to hear. Radio here it's you know, it's for them, it's for the kids, and they've got their own little you know a little show that they can have.
Mandy Dempsey, director: I'm really passionate about 'Way to Play' because I want all families to be able to access early childhood education. I want all families singing with their children, and reading with their children, and this is just an easy way for them to do it together.
Innovation in Practice Award
Winner – students as agents of change, Prospect North Primary School
Student agency is embedded in every process at Prospect North Primary School, contributing to improved NAPLAN results and increased student wellbeing. Innovative approaches, such as the “Kids Teach STEM” and “STEM in action” conference days, have seen students presenting to more than 500 adults. Children of all backgrounds have become confident speakers, role models and high level STEM learners.
Marg Clark, principal: Students as agents of change has been a project we've been working on for the past three years, where we've centered the students as part of our process to improve outcomes for all of our students. We position our kids at the center of all our decision-making in the school, so they have the ability to change what they want to change in the school.
Tina, student: Student Parliament is like where students get together and make decisions, they help the school, it involves student voice, and ideas from other students that don't get to have a lot of say in a school.
Dineth, student: The schools in the Adelaide Prospect partnership get together, and we talk about all of our learning, and what it looks like, and they can take it back to school and improve their learning by looking at how other schools do it, and get new ideas.
Marg Clark, principal: I think the future will be amazing for these students. What we're hoping for is that they get the confidence and the same skills to be able to go out there and compete with anyone at any level, and that's what those conferences are giving them.
Finalist – sustainable innovation through inquiry, Kangaroo Inn Area School
Collaboration and curiosity are at the centre of the Sustainable Innovation through Inquiry program at Kangaroo Inn Area School. Projects like solar-powered fish farming, making clay bricks to build a pizza oven and re-purposing feed bags into shopping bags and pencil cases are not only teaching students about sustainability, but boosting their creativity and engagement with STEM.
Amy Williams, teacher: We've taken on learning through inquiry, which is a really, lends itself to the kind of natural curiosities of children I think. The children devise a lot of their own questions, which we then, that directs the learning, and then through those processes they develop ideas and problem-solve and justify their decisions, and I think we're going that way because a lot of the kids are learning other skills as well for outside of school, like resilience, persistence, and social confidence.
Jack Cunningham, teacher: As part of our Centre for sustainable living, that we've developed for our sustainable innovation through inquiry project, our students have designed and constructed a solar-powered trout farm with aquaponics, a small vineyard comprising 65 vines, a composting program that runs from reception through to year 12 with worm farms, and they also built a greenhouse that's now used for native plant revegetation projects.
Tom Davidson, teacher: Well there's a saying that says 'tell me and I'll forget, and show me and I might remember, but involve me and I'll understand'. If students are involved in, you know, seemingly adult activities which is design, construction, then they feel like adults, and that's kind of given them responsibility, accountability, and they actually are proud of their accomplishments, so it's been a real benefit for staff and students.
Finalist – Tristan Kouwenhoven, Assistant principal senior school, Brighton Secondary School
By rethinking home group to incentivise engagement in post-school pathways, Tristan and the senior school team are helping senior students make realistic and fulfilling plans. The program also prioritises teachers developing highly effective mentoring relationships with students. Prior to the program, 40% of students were getting offers in their top 3 preferences. Last year it was 87%. SACE completion rates are up, and student voice has improved.
Tristan Kouwenhoven: So we've implemented a new extended home group program here at Brighton Secondary, and what that looks to do is give students an opt-in opportunity for a whole bunch of sessions, and information, and presentations that we offer to the students. In previous times were basically saying to all of the students 'you have to go to this, every single session' and it was just missing the mark, we had low engagement, we had low attendance, and as a result students were probably making incorrect choices moving forward. So we've changed the program to be a lot more adult-like, a lot more like University, where students can actually opt-in to things. Things that really matter to them, and we've seen a great improvement in attendance of these things, and also the students engaging in the senior school itself.
Maj-Lis Borgen-Smith, teacher: The students adore him, they call him TK. He's got a really relaxed, but respectful response from the kids, so they like being around him, but they certainly respect him.
Lawson, student: I'm a fan. He's everyone's a fan of TK, he'll crack a joke.
Tristan Kouwenhoven: I really want to be able to help those students who make that next step into the world of work, and higher education, because they do have some concerns, they've got a lot of anxiety about that sort of thing, and everything we can do to help them make that step more efficiently and safely I think is a good step forward.
Aunty Josie Agius Award
Winner – Rachel Amos, early childhood worker, Port Augusta Children's Centre
Rachel identified and is successfully addressing a barrier to local Aboriginal families accessing preschool. Her transition playgroup, which gives Aboriginal families with 2 year olds a relaxed introduction to the Port Augusta Children’s Centre, has increased preschool enrolments. The approach, which reflects her deep connection to the community, is being adopted in other centres across Port Augusta and beyond.
Mandy Dempsey, director: Rachel is a really passionate early childhood worker. She's really seen the difference it makes for children when they engage in early childhood and families engage with them in early childhood, and going to kindy and then on to school and seeing the difference along that journey.
Rachel Amos: Playgroup's pretty much just a kindy, but for the younger ones. But they're coming in with their parents and they're able to feel safe.
Mandy Dempsey, director:She's really made a difference in encouraging Aboriginal families to be a bigger part of the centre. So, finding ways to actually engage them and if people are a bit wary about coming into the centre, then she talks to us about what we can do. So, developing outreach programs, and providing Aboriginal-specific programs, and she's really been our reach into community to be able to engage more Aboriginal families. So it's been really good having her on board.
Rachel Amos: I love kids, just love being around 'em. Love seeing em' grow and learn new stuff.
Finalist – Jayde Milburn, Aboriginal community education officer, Blakeview Primary School
Jayde has helped create a culturally inclusive learning environment, grounded in community. With a strong emphasis on accessibility and trust, her proactive work identifying and linking families to external support ensures the environment around the learning is conducive to success. Strong collaboration with teachers makes sure classroom programs are culturally appropriate and contribute to positive learning outcomes.
Jayde Milburn: As part of my role at Blakeview, I'm supporting the children in the classroom environment, bringing culture into the school, bringing the families into the school. It is a community-based role, so I do try and get out into the community and meet other services, and bring it all in for the families. I have groups with children; reading groups, writing groups, just to help improve their work. Some kids come and see me weekly just for a chat and catch up, and then I also pass that on to the parents they know what's going on in the school.
Brenton Conradi, principal: She actually is the glue that binds the parents, and the staff, and the students together. She's very passionate about student learning. She ensures our children here get involved in education, do the best they can. She's very strong on culture, and helps that thrive through our school.
Jayde Milburn: So impacts would definitely be the improvement on attendance, with the children's learning when you see children going up in reader levels and things like that, that's always a huge positive.
Finalist – Nadine Bilney, Preschool teacher, Port Lincoln Children's Centre
Nadine’s “high expectations” approach energises colleagues and creates confident, capable learners with a strong sense of identity and wellbeing. She co-designed take-home literacy kits that increased family-based reading and helped create an environment of infectious enthusiasm for books. Linking kindy to culture, she instigated a successful home visiting program to support attendance and engage parents in learning.
Nadine Bilney: I've worked in the mainstream for nearly 30 years. But in 2008, they were looking for Aboriginal literacy teacher, so I thought I'd have a go, and having the positive learning that's been happening there, it's been really great.
Roxanne Ware, teacher: She's great with the kids. She's got a nice nature about her, so the kids will come and see her and spend lots of time with her, yeah.
Joanne Smith, director: One of the things that she's been focusing on this year with the three-year-old is conversational reading, so engaging them in conversations about a topic, whether it's a book or some photos. She's actually getting them to have a conversation about a specific topic. And it's back and forth, it's not just her doing the reading and doing all the talking. So she's actually getting the children to think about what they wanna say.
Roxanne Ware, teacher: I'm just passionate about children, working and to have fun with the children. Even though we have structure in the curriculum, but also for me, is to have fun and let the children have fun in learning as well.
Performance Through Values Award
Winner – Janet Hughes, instructor in charge, Water Safety program
Janet has dedicated her professional life to making sure students with disabilities can enjoy the pool safely in an inclusive, positive environment. Following the closure of the Strathmont Centre pool, her high level problem solving skills and leadership ensured a seamless transition to a new facility. She is known across the state for her uncompromising high standards and focus on team.
Janet Hughes: The Water Safety Programme is a personalised programme for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities get to come swimming every week throughout the school year, so every week we cover something different and it's all about water safety. It's all about access and inclusion and it's all about them having the opportunity to come and access a programme like this to learn life-saving skills.
Daphne Quadrio, swimming instructor: She's really passionate about her job, really passionate about the children, and really passionate about the programme. I find Janet really committed and very dedicated to her work. I find that she works with great integrity and she's very honest and very hard working.
Janet Hughes: We've had many kids that initially wouldn't even get in the water, so to see them achieve and to learn to swim, and the smiles on their face, it's just incredible.
Finalist – Karen Tohver, course manager, Registered Training Organisation
Karen has embraced the world class ethos, delivering high quality, nationally accredited training qualifications for leaders and aspiring leaders to help drive improvement across the education system. A supportive course manager, who gives participants the knowledge and confidence to improve themselves, she is helping to create a commitment to effective professional development that has an impact well beyond the organisation.
Karen Tohver: I deliver the advanced diploma of leadership and management, and more recently, certificate three in education support qualifications. These are directed to leaders and aspiring leaders and school services offices working cross with the department sites. And I work with approximately 55 participants who go on to graduate from the RTO each year. I provide a personalised and consistent learning environment where individual strengths are carefully considered and differentiated learning and assessment methods are applied that also reflects the intent and integrity of the qualification.
Simon Turvey, course manager: Karen's a kind of facilitator and course manager and assessor who is able to, I think, bring out the best in our students by being able to see where they're at at a particular time in their learning journey and then being able to, I think, expand upon where they've come from and what knowledge they have at alignment and then where to take them from there.
Karen Tohver: What I'm proud of is the approach that I use to bring out the best of individuals. So I provide the right support at the right time in the right way, along with valuable feedback that goes on to promote success and engagement.
Finalist – Simone Baulderstone, senior human resources consultant, Operations Business Partnering
Simone is a senior HR consultant with a deep understanding of and respect for educators and a passion for making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable young people. Known for her individualised approach to supporting sites, she always looks for opportunities to reshape central services to meet their needs. She has been instrumental in developing the department’s employee wellbeing programs in the APY Lands.
Simone Baulderstone: My role is to support site leaders to ensure that the staff that they have in their schools meet the needs of their individual context that includes industrial considerations, financial considerations, but also what direction the school wants to go in to provide advice of what's available, work with the universities, and encourage them to promote the people that we really need in public education.
Meredith Edwards, principal: She's outstanding. She has a strong educational headset, she also knows that you need to have the best teachers in front of students to get the best outcomes, and she will work tirelessly to support principals in doing that.
Kate James, principal: Simone is always there for us. She goes beyond what she needs to do in her job. She's very accessible for us because working in such isolation, because she previously worked here, she understands our context and so she goes that extra mile to support us and then she goes another mile and another mile and another mile.
Romane Abell, manager: She's very passionate about making sure the right person is in the right role at the right site to enhance the performance of the whole site.
We also celebrate past winners and finalists. Read about our 2018 Public Education Awards winners and finalists. You can also read about our 2017 award winners and finalists.
Public Education Awards
Phone: 8226 2339
Email: publiceducationawards [at] sa.gov.au