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2021 Winners


Hearty congratulations to the recipients of the 2021 National Excellence in Teaching Awards.

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Dean Krieger 
Mordialloc Beach Primary School, VIC 

Winner of Apple Award

As a prep teacher, Dean lays strong foundations and was nominated by a parent for “provided children with a desire for learning from their first day at school.” Dean's YouTube channel has been his vehicle for engaging with students and parents, and for mentoring colleagues through two years of Melbourne lockdowns. 

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Casey Gardiner 
Coolbellup Learning Centre, WA 

Winner of Apple Award, and
Teacher Mentor Award 

Casey has been selected as our 2021 ‘Outstanding Mentor’, thanks to her focus on upskilling colleagues, assistants, and initial teachers in working with children with disability and their families. She is a dedicated and skilled educator who demonstrates excellent skills in developing and adapting teaching and learning programs for students with diverse and high educational needs. 


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Alicia (Leash) Giles
Xavier Catholic College Bathurst Island, NT 

Winner of Apple Award, and
Terry O’Connell Regional and Remote Teachers’ Award 

As a fourth-year teacher seconded to a remote NT community, in 2021 Leash took on leadership of pedagogy at her school. She developed thirty readers set on the Tiwi Islands about Tiwi people making the stories more relatable to the students. The initiative of providing culturally inclusive texts has demonstrably lifted reading ages in secondary students.  

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Chris Mundey
Good Shepherd Lutheran College, QLD

Winner of Apple Award 

Chris aims to know every student, and their preferred way of learning. He is always encouraging his students to engage in physical activity through the day. He also shares resources with the other teaching staff and helps them find ways to connect with their learners’ needs too. This has helped the team develop innovative teaching and learning strategies which ensure the curriculum remains current and interesting. 

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Toukley Preschool Team 
Toukley Preschool Kindergarten Inc., NSW

Winner of inaugural NEiTA Seed Award for Early Childhood Team Excellence  

The Toukley Preschool team demonstrates seamless child-first teamwork and collaboration in the way they work. With a play-based, environment-centric approach they have built strong connections with their families and the local indigenous community. Children are “encouraged to be carers of our earth, be barefoot and dirty, share emotions, voices, knowledge, and experience being in the moment”. 

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Romina Maione
Albion Park Rail Public School, NSW

Winner of inaugural The Smith Family-NEiTA Award for Powering Potential 

Romina has 21 years’ experience as a teacher. As Deputy Principal of the school, she has been a tireless champion for The Smith Family within her school, proactively identifying families that would benefit from the educational support the charitable organisation provides to students experiencing disadvantage. She was also instrumental in developing a learning club in the school. 

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Chandra Littlewood 
Moriah Kindergarten, Te Aro  

Winner of Seed Award, NEiTA Early Careers Teaching Award 

Chandra has worked tirelessly to lead Moriah Kindergarten’s teachers, children and their whanau on a journey towards more sustainable living with respect for the environment. She helped the early childhood centre earn the Enviroschool  silver award, but of more importance is the long-lasting effect she has had on the children and their views and actions.  

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Derren Coles 
Avonside Girls’ High School, North New Brighton 

Winner of Apple Award, and
Futurity Parents’ Award 

Derren’s success as an inspirational music teacher lies in the way he manages to engage children from varied backgrounds in a way makes the student believe they are capable of anything. He is a popular and respected classroom teacher, who has been able to build strong relationships with his students through his personal interest in their development and growth.

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Emily Oostdam Leenhouwers 
Secret Harbour Primary School, WA

Winner of Apple Award 

Emily goes above and beyond as a teacher ensuring each child gets some individual time with the teacher, creating individual learning plans for children, and taking on student teachers. Emily's widely regarded to have established “outstanding” communication with parents and is recommended as a role model for her colleagues.

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Ella Martin 
The Lakes College, QLD 

Winner of Apple Award 

Ella’s success in the classroom is reflected in the way her students are always engaged, smiling, and having fun learning in her class. Her innovative use of the sign language AUSLAN to help her students learn new ideas and her ability to help students feel safe to make mistakes and have the confidence to self-correct are commendable.

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Kristin Bell 
Medowie Christian School, NSW

Winner of Apple Award 

Kristin is a dedicated, inspirational educator, committed to innovation, student wellbeing, and academic success. Her entrepreneurial programs, including a Shark Tank for Stage 5 Commerce students, The Stan Van – a preloved caravan converted by her students into a café, and her careers automation initiative are testament to Kristin’s innovative thinking and practice.

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Derek Patulny 
Fort Street High School, NSW 

Winner of Apple Award 

Derek is someone who holds student wellbeing close to his heart. He has a natural ability to bond with students and learn their personalities quickly, enabling him to keep parents informed and reassured of their child’s progress. Reflecting this high level of student engagement, the school’s Student Representative Council voted to nominate Derek for a NEiTA award. 

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Amanda Ford 
KU ANSTO Children’s Centre, NSW 

Winner of Seed Award 

Amanda leads a team of 17 and is an innovative and enthusiastic leader driven to learn and actively promote professional learning for the team. Her sustainability initiatives, such as a children’s clothing swap market, a program to reduce food waste, a recycling hub, extending the kitchen garden, and developing a system to improve waste management all lay emphasis on the environment in her teaching. 

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Amanda Tawhai 
Newmark Primary, VIC 

Winner of NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership 

In her three years as principal of Newmark Primary, Amanda has worked immensely hard to build, iterate, and refine the innovative school philosophy. She is passionate about innovation and determined to push the boundaries when it comes to delivering authentic learning experiences. Her exceptional leadership was evident in the way that she led the school unscathed through the multiple COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria. 

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Erika Jenkins 
Ormiston Senior College, Flat Bush 

Winner of Apple Award 

Erika is a senior English teacher who can draw the best out of her students. Erika’s strengths lie in her ability to form strong professional relationships with students and staff and her superb grasp of effective pedagogy. Young teachers are encouraged to observe her classes to learn from her teaching-learning practices and students enjoy being in her class. 

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Leanne Mary Elizabeth Otene 
Manaia View School, Raumanga

Winner of NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership, and Teacher Mentor Award 

Leanne’s exemplary leadership was evident in her school’s COVID response. She regularly shares her plans with regional principals and was part of a nationwide select group of principals brought together to monitor the Government’s advice to principals. She has recently been elected to the national executive of the NZ Principals’ Federation. 

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Chin Hui Alvin Leo 
Safety Bay Primary School, WA

Winner of Apple Award, and
NEiTA Early Career Teaching Award

Alvin’s commitment to building a safe, inclusive, and more resilient community underpins his approach to teaching and leadership. As his school’s wellbeing leader, Alvin introduced Be You Day to encourage children to embrace their cultural heritage.  Greater student engagement helped boost measured literacy levels. 

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As the Learning Area Co-ordinator for Visual Arts at her school, Sarah has worked tirelessly towards creating a unified approach to promoting and teaching visual arts to the secondary students at her school. In 2021, Sarah curated a successful Darkside Festival transforming the college into a “dramatic landscape of darkness, mystery and intrigue”.  

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Timothy has been a key contributor to the development of the STEM4Innovation initiative in WA. This most recent example of his success in providing learners with meaningful connected learning experiences has been piloted in 22 schools and engaged more than 700 students in 2020, and continues to grow in 2021, Tim has also been a proactive STEM leader across K-12 education in WA. 

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Jennifer uses play-based methods to provide hands on experiences to encourage exploration, discovery, creative thinking, and problem-solving among her students. Her empathetic approach and training in dealing with trauma have helped her reach out to and assist the local indigenous community through extended lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Jeremy earned a reputation for leading Bialik College during the pandemic with calm professionalism and care helping the school thrive during this period. Students and their families felt supported, and the college achieved the highest VCE results in the State. He has also led the Cultures of Thinking project, sponsored by the school in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero.  

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Andrew has a staggering 43 years’ experience as an educator. He is an outstanding and innovative leader who mentors and partners with community services for the betterment of his students. As Principal of Dapto High School, Andrew was the driving force in supporting families connected with The Smith Family’s Learning for Life scholarship program. 

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Darren Kerr 
Whareama School, Whareama 

Winner of Apple Award 

Darren is an accomplished primary and middle school educator who introduced ‘forest learning’ to the school. He is widely known to help anyone in any way he can. As principal of his small school, he leads by example and in a positive and organised way, ensuring his staff and students have fun even as they strive for excellence.  

Sarah Adams 
St Mary’s College, TAS 

Winner of Apple Award 

Timothy Rowberry 
John Curtin College of the Arts, WA

 Winner of Apple Award 

Jennifer Gorey
Ngalangangpum School, WA 

Winner of Seed Award, and
Futurity Parents’ Award 

Jeremy Stowe Lindner
Bialik College, VIC 

Winner of NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership 

Andrew FitzSimons
Dapto High School, NSW

Winner of inaugural The Smith Family-NEiTA Award for Powering Potential 

Award categories  


  • Apple Award: to acknowledge outstanding teachers who’ve gone above and beyond for their students. 

  • NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership: presented in recognition of outstanding stewardship of student education and welfare, and exemplary school community leadership in a year of pandemic. 

  • Seed Award: presented in recognition of the efforts of preschool teachers and early childhood educators who lay the foundations for lifelong practice and enjoyment of learning. 

  • NEiTA Seed Award for Early Childhood Team Excellence: presented in recognition of the team’s outstanding collective contribution to student education and welfare. 

  • The Smith Family-NEiTA Award for Powering Potential: presented in partnership with The Smith Family, in recognition of an outstanding educator for inspiring students experiencing disadvantage to achieve their full potential. 

  • Teacher Mentor Award: presented in recognition of outstanding peer mentoring and exemplary sharing of professional practice. 

  • Terry O’Connell Regional and Remote Teachers’ Award: presented in acknowledgment of the benefits the teacher has brought to students and the wider community through their untiring efforts and community involvement. 

  • NEiTA Early Career Teaching Award: presented in recognition of the teacher’s ability to more than meet the specific learning needs of students within a few years of entering the teaching profession. 

  • Futurity Parents’ Award in acknowledgment of being adjudged the best teacher nominated by a Futurity member. 


Peter Kent 
Birrigai Outdoor School, ACT

Winner of NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership 

Peter has been the driving force behind establishing guiding principles and protocols for the teaching and learning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. He has initiated projects that see teachers working with local indigenous students, educators, Elders, and community to develop Birrigai’s curriculum-based indigenous programs and cultural integrity by adding Aboriginal voices and perspectives.

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