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NSW’s best educators awarded

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The Australian College of Educators (NSW Branch) Excellence in Education Awards recognise educators and/or educational institutions for excellence in educational practice. This includes, but is not limited to, demonstrated excellence in all areas of teaching and learning – curriculum development, student wellbeing, professional development, technology, pedagogy, leadership, innovation, scholarship, indigenous education, learning support and disability education.

Executive Director of Schools, Catholic Education Diocese of Bathurst, Jenny Allen and Principal of Denison College of Secondary Education, Craig Petersen were presented with the Excellence in Education Award.

Allen is responsible for 9000 students and 930 teachers and introduced a program which has transformed the culture throughout the Bathurst Diocese’s 33 schools.

“The program encourages, supports and empowers educators and allows them to work collaboratively instead of in isolation,” she said.

“This professional and personalised approach to learning is tailored to meet the needs of students, whatever their aspirations may be.

“The program also allows our teachers to be the best educators they can be and gives our principals the freedom to lead.”

Craig Petersen has spent the past eight years prioritising his students and their goals.

As Principal of Denison College of Secondary Education, Petersen is responsible for 1800 students and 200 staff across the Bathurst and Kelso High Campuses.

“It’s all about the students. I’m passionate about creating opportunities for them, irrespective of their circumstances and financial background,” he said.

“Yes, we teach in the context of the curriculum, but we also identify the talent within each student and allow it to shine."

Former ABC Foreign Correspondent and 60 Minutes Presenter, Jeff McMullen was awarded the Community & Social Justice Award.

The award recognises the essential work educators do to change the circumstances in which people are excluded, impoverished or disempowered.

For the past 12 years, McMullen has been a driving force behind the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), an innovative program which pairs Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students with university mentors.

“This award recognises everyone who works at AIME and the education revolution they are leading in Australia,”  McMullen said.

“AIME is transforming the lives of young Indigenous men and women in rural and remote communities who traditionally did not have access to education.

“For more than a decade AIME has improved Indigenous education outcomes and helped redefine what is possible.

“Because of the organisation’s tireless work, I’m hopeful Indigenous education achievements will cease being a cause for celebration in Australia and instead become the accepted norm.”

Dr John Collier, Head of School at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral School and Gawura (St Andrew’s Indigenous School) was awarded the Australian College of Educators (NSW Branch) Sir Harold Wyndham Medal.

The Medal recognises the outstanding contribution of an individual to the education of young people in NSW.

Collier has spent the past 46 years driving educational outcomes for students and considers working with young people his life’s work. He is deeply interested in academic excellence, strong pastoral care, vibrant co-curricular programmes and the development of well-rounded young people who will become successful adults and active citizens.

An advocate of Christian education which is open and inclusive, encourages critique and thoughtful analysis and permits respectful dissent, Collier believes Heads of Schools should also be students themselves who contribute to the way education is conceptualised and delivered.

“I am completely astonished – I thought the Sir Harold Wyndham Medal was out of my league,” Collier said.

Matthew Esterman, a Teaching and Learning Integrator at Trinity Grammar School in Summer Hill, was awarded the Dr Paul Brock Medal at a dinner celebrating the state’s most passionate and gifted teachers.

The Medal recognises a teacher who demonstrates an exceptional commitment to the teaching profession, who is an inspiration to students in their academic and personal development and is a ‘point of light’ for other teachers, students and members of the wider education community.

Esterman is the co-founder and organiser of TeachMeet, an informal, collaborative network organised by educators, for educators.

“Unlike traditional professional development days, TeachMeet events are open to all teachers from all sectors,”  Esterman said.

“It’s a platform for everyone. Principals might present alongside pre-school educators, share ideas, discuss experiences and learn from each other. We also use Twitter and Facebook to organise events and share key learnings beyond the time and place of a single TeachMeet.

“The model has been adopted all over Australia and simplifies professional development. It works because everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to share.

“Away from TeachMeet and in the classroom, I adopt a slightly different approach. I like to challenge my students so they grow into critical thinkers, creative problem solvers and collaborative, active citizens.”

Esterman has also led research into school designs and effective learning spaces, worked with the New South Wales Department of Education in change management and encouraged other schools to re-think their use of space, technology and resources for a better learning experience.

Stephanie Salazar, Assistant Principal at John Purchase Public School in Sydney’s north-west, was presented with the Young Professionals Award.

Her passion is new teachers and she recently launched a nationwide initiative (New Teacher Tribe) which encourages, supports and empowers educators who are new to the profession.

In the classroom, the Stage 2 Teacher oversees a whole-of-school coaching project which has improved the school's culture, increased her colleagues’ classroom capacity and boosted their confidence.

“I’m overwhelmed - recognition like this was not on my radar. I knew of the award, but never in a millionyears did I think I’d be in the running,” Salazar said.

“I’m still in shock, but extremely grateful to be recognised by my contemporaries in the teaching community."

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