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The 2017 ACT Public Education Awards acknowledge principals, teachers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education leadership, support staff, partnerships and volunteers. Several employees were also recognised for their valuable contribution to Canberra public schools for over forty years of service.

This year’s event was bigger than ever, attracting more than 550 attendees to the event. This is a clear reflection of the exceptional staff working in Canberra public schools, striving to make a difference in students’ lives every day, and acknowledge the hard work of their colleagues.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, Ms Yvette Berry MLA and our very own Director-General, Natalie Howson congratulated all winners and presented awards at the ceremony on Thursday 9 November 2017 at the National Museum of Australia.

Congratulations to everyone acknowledged on the night – enjoy the terrific pictures of the event.

Award Recipients:

Education Support Person of the Year: Luke Ferguson, The Woden School

This year Luke has transitioned from a Learning Support Assistant to a Youth Support Worker flawlessly. He has played an integral role in many new initiatives at The Woden School this year, providing support, care and counselling to the students of the school in addition to introducing a variety of enrichment programs.

He has established a student led events team know as Party Down Production to run these discos. The team itself is an exclusive environment where all members of the school are involved on a rotational basis. In preparation for each disco Luke mentors students to DJ the event, create playlists, design promotional posters and to set up the DJ and lighting equipment. Luke has also successfully taken the Party Down Productions Team to facilitate discos in other schools in the ACT region.

Volunteer of the Year: Playground Enhancement Team - Emily Walter, Daniel Trevino and Louise Woodruff, Macquarie Primary School

This team of volunteers has contributed significantly to Macquarie Primary School’s Playground Enhancement Project, co-designing with students and staff a brilliant outdoor learning space. To date they have dedicated in excess of 120 volunteer hours and have overseen the construction of gardens, play spaces, planting forest, a Bush Tucker Garden and are currently planning for a student created precinct, along with other landscaping and outdoor learning spaces.

The team has engaged children in different ways to move physically, play cooperatively and to interact respectfully, all through volunteering.

Thank you so much for your generosity to the Macquarie community. Can Emily, Daniel or Louise step up to receive this award.

New Educator of the Year: Emily Gregory, Turner School

Emily was nominated for many reasons, notably her exemplary work in leading innovation. As a new educator she is already emerging as a leader of change not just at Turner School, but on a national level. She has represented a number of groups and projects throughout the ACT, presented at national conferences on Project Based Learning, collaborated with teachers Australia wide and is an active member and facilitator of many of Turner School’s committee’s and extracurricular activities.

In July 2017 Emily presented at the national AAMT conference on Engaging Mathematics and Addressing Mathematics Curriculum through Project Based Learning. Following on from the AAMT Conference, she has also presented at the CMA Conference on Project Based Learning and is set to present at the Engaging Schools Summit.

Following her attendance at this year’s ALEA Conference, Emily helped form an online PLC to actively collaborate with teachers working with literacy expert Christine Topfer in Hobart.

Her colleagues note that she teaches every day with a level of knowledge, passion and commitment to growth that sets a standard all educators should strive for.

Early Childhood Teacher of the Year: Maree Blume, Namadgi School

Maree has displayed outstanding commitment and innovation in her teaching practice as an Early Childhood teacher for approximately forty years in ACT schools. Maree’s dedication to the students and their families that she works with is admirable.

She acts as an advocate for families who require support from external agencies providing therapy or medical interventions. She supports those families by writing referrals, contacting health professionals and more recently, supporting and advocating for families eligible for NDIS funding. Maree has volunteered countless hours of her non-teaching time to tutor students requiring additional learning support and always in collaboration with their parents or carers. Maree has developed a vast array of resources to support the early childhood curriculum, adjusting these to meet the specific needs of her individual students. These materials are always targeted, engaging, visual and hands-on, designed to increase students’ understanding of and access to the curriculum.

She has gone above and beyond to provide encouragement, support and mentorship and is always seeking best practise solutions to particular working needs. She is an example of a true lifelong learner and an outstanding, engaged, professional and knowledgeable teacher.

Primary Teacher of the Year: Vanessa Stephens, Mount Rogers Primary School

Vanessa has an unwavering belief that our planet is precious and the role of an educator is to ensure all students become stewards of the earth. Vanessa has led great change within Mount Rogers Primary School and throughout the community, with a particular emphasis on parent engagement. Her actions have led to Mount Rogers Primary School achieving ACT Smart Schools 5-star accreditation for recycling, energy, water, biodiversity and curriculum. Children plant, grow and harvest food; cook nutritious meals using this produce; and learn about environmental sustainability. Recipes used in class are shared with families; excess produce from the gardens is donated to the canteen or sold to members of the community by students. Vanessa runs a lunchtime gardening club and a Green Team who monitor energy use and waste across the school on a daily basis. She also leads and encourages parent participation in whole school events such as National Tree Day, Clean Up Australia Day & Earth Hour. Vanessa is an active member of the Fresh Tastes team which has successfully implemented all six priority areas into our school. Outcomes of this initiative include a highly successful accredited canteen serving healthy food, implementation of the Food and Me nutrition curriculum and participation in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen garden program. She is also currently working with students and community groups to develop a Bush Tucker garden.

Vanessa’s colleagues seek her out for advice, mentoring and resources and her passion and expertise is greatly appreciated by all.

Secondary Teacher of the Year: Jeff Hunt, Murrumbidgee Education and Training Centre

Jeff is an extremely adaptable educator, he has developed and maintained effective partnerships with a number of external education providers under different circumstances to other educators. Last year, Jeff’s efforts led to the first student’s completion of a year 12 certificate whilst in detention and he is responsible for multiple students completing their year 10 studies each year. Jeff has also developed an intensive direct instruction numeracy intervention for METC students with more significant learning needs as well as a financial literacy program for older students. He has initiated numerous community activities that help METC student’s reconnect back to the broader ACT community, including talks by industry representatives, Anzac day & Remembrance Day activities, visits from international and national athletes as well as athletes with a disability - to name but a few. Jeff’s colleagues note that he ‘works tirelessly and successfully to develop the whole person’.

Outstanding Partnership of the Year: Black Mountain School and YMCA

The YMCA have collaborated with Black Mountain School to provide various vocational opportunities to students with disabilities in 2017. This year 6 students have participated in work experience with YMCA and we are thrilled to watch this number grow. This partnership highlights the benefits of employing people with disabilities and will become a pilot program for other businesses to emulate.

Congratulations to the YMCA and Black Mountain School on leading the charge.

Leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education: Elinor Archer, Dickson College

Elinor is a proud Palawa woman who grew up in the Canberra region. Elinor is inspirational and sets high expectations in the AATSI initiatives she has led. These include reaching out to organisations (e.g. Greening Australia) and the community to work with our Indigenous students in developing tutorial support schemes, Koori Clubs (pastoral care program), and a Koori Cultural space and Bush Tucker Garden at the college. Elinor draws on her community networks to improve pathways planning for our AATSI students, and has led teachers in action inquiry to explore how we can improve support programs and cultural awareness in teaching programs within the College.

In recognition of her leadership and strong connection to community, Elinor has been invited to contribute to new directions in AATSI Education. She was invited to speak at the Department of Education’s panel event, Reconciliation: Taking the Next Step, seconded to the steering committee developing the ACT’s Indigenous Culture and Language Course, and has been invited to give a guided discussion around current leading practice in AATSI Education in the

ACT for the Directorate’s new policy direction - Cultural Integrity.

Outstanding School Leader of the Year: Helen Witcombe, Deputy Principal and Manager of Tuggeranong Sustainable Living Trades Training Centre

Helen is fiercely committed to ensuring our industry facilities, vocational education and training programs are leading the nation.

Helen has quality assured the Trades Training Centre project completion and co-managed the construction and fit-outs of the $8million Trades Training Centres situated over seven sites.

Helen is constantly scanning the educational landscape in search of strategies to ensure students have access to the absolute best vocational education and training facilities to learn and grow. Helen’s colleague states that she is ‘tireless, relentless and morally forthright in pursuit of excellence in the practical learning experiences had by students’.

Recognition of Service Awards - 40 Years

The following staff received recognition of their 40 years of service:


The ACT Education Directorate acknowledges the contribution of our sponsor - Teachers Mutual Bank.

The ACT Education Directorate acknowledges the contribution of our sponsor - Teachers Mutual Bank.