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Exceptional Teachers Receive National Excellence In Teaching Awards

In a year like no other, six of New Zealand’s top primary and secondary school educators have received National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA), supported by Futurity Investment Group.

The recipients - which range from beginner teachers to long-standing principals – were announced virtually, rather than during a physical ceremony, for the first time in the Awards’ 26-year history.

NEiTA chairman and convenor of judges Allen Blewitt said each of this year’s winners have demonstrated, in this year of a pandemic, that student and teacher welfare is at least as important as educational outcomes.

“Judges placed a high weight on how educators were able to meet students’ heightened socio-emotional needs. Lockdown and school closures presented risks of isolation for many youths, yet technology also provided powerful communication tools that allowed some students to thrive personally, socially and in learning,” says Mr Blewitt.

The 2020 National Excellence in Teaching Awards winners are:
Moana Tautua of Te Papapa School (Onehunga, Auckland) - Inaugural Early Career Award
Laura Wheeler of Meadowbank School (Meadowbank, Auckland)
David Ivory of St John’s College (Hastings)
Caroline Robertson of Samuel Marsden Collegiate School (Wellington) – ASG Parents’ Award
Nick Coughlan of One Tree Hill College (Penrose, Auckland) – NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership
Richard Crawford of Fairfield College (Hamilton) – NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership

Moana Tautua was honoured with NEiTA NZ’s inaugural Early Career Award. Ms Tautua, who is only in her fourth year of teaching after a successful career in the media, established a junior bilingual unit, Te Purapura. Despite COVID-19, she built strong relationships with her tamariki and their whanau through her vision of restoring mana to te reo Māori. Ms Tautua’s pupils actively engage in learning, whilst developing their identities and sense of self-worth through the digital learning programme she designed.

By term three, Te Purapura students were reading in both English and Te Reo. Ms Tautua’s nominator said “Māori within Te Purapura are genuinely succeeding as Māori. Moana is an asset to our community and deserves to be recognised as an exceptional teacher and leader."

Laura Wheeler and David Ivory are recognised for their outstanding contribution to student education and welfare. Ms Wheeler’s experience moving her classroom online in recent years has paid dividends during COVID-19 school shutdowns. During Auckland’s two lock downs, she gamified her classroom and successfully reached children previously unable to read nor write. Laura demonstrated her leadership credentials by leading an e-learning project at her primary school.

Dr Ivory is a teacher with a strong social conscience which he imbues in his students. Over the last four years teaching at a low decile school, he has supported students from diverse backgrounds in winning multiple national awards for work outside the classroom. He engages with the community, including prison inmates, and those struggling with alcohol addiction. “Dr Ivory gives his students hope and has high expectations for them; he is an exceptional teacher,” says his nominator.

Caroline Robertson wins the inaugural ASG Parents’ Award in New Zealand. The honour is presented to a teacher who parents nominate as having made a significant difference to the lives of their students, school families and communities.

Caroline is a German teacher who combined humour with real life interactive activities in her online classes, and posted videos during lockdown. Parent nominators say she has a flair for immersing the students in hilarious foreign language conversations no matter what their level, boosting their confidence and wellbeing. During lockdown, Caroline's other role as Director of International Students came to the fore as she took on the pastoral care for visiting international students grounded in NZ, and orchestrated international learning experiences for local students.
Nick Coughlan and Richard Crawford were each announced winners of a NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership. Both school principals, they were recognised for their outstanding stewardship of student education.

Mr Coughlan’s nominator said that throughout this year, Nick has displayed outstanding leadership. “Under lockdown he was calm and lead from the front, with strong communication as key. Nick is highly community focused and parents, staff and students all felt supported and listened to. He spent hours working with the Ministry to help students access devices and hard copy materials during lockdown.”

With 31-years of experience in the teaching profession, Mr Crawford is a respected principal and community leader who is Lead Principal of 18 schools in his region. His nominator says “Richard's practice is built on trust and true cultural sensitivity; he maintains a high degree of viability and approachability for his teachers, students and parents. He leads a school that has also become a leader, having started with it when it was in statutory management. He is a strong believer in the importance of culture.”

Each NEiTA Award recipient receives a certificate, a handblown crystal apple trophy and a development grant of $5,000 for teachers and $10,000 for principals.

Futurity CEO, Ross Higgins said each of these educators has displayed outstanding resilience, passion and creativity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the start of the year, a majority of our parent members felt that that the role and professionalism of teachers was under-appreciated by the wider community. Perhaps a silver-lining of a challenging year for all is that the pandemic has amplified the essential role these educators play in the community,” Mr Higgins said.

Mr Blewitt also says each of this year’s winners have a great passion for education and an ability to enthuse others. “It’s not just the students who benefit, their colleagues and the entire school community do, too.

“It is pleasing that in a year when maintaining learning standards may be considered a victory, our six national Award winners have all shown strong evidence of improvements in student learning and an evolution in their teaching practice,” says Mr Blewitt.

“In 2020, these teachers and principals, by their professionalism, enthusiasm and care continue to shape the lives of countless young New Zealanders. We believe that education changes lives and that teachers transform futures. This is why we happily support NEiTA,” Ross Higgins concluded.

The National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) began in New Zealand in 1996. Since inception, around 40,000 teachers have been nominated by the community in the two countries. More than 1,050 teachers have received $1 million in professional development grants, prizes and endowments.

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