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Inspirational teachers receive NEiTA Awards for instilling joy and lifelong learning in children

Recognition for teachers who went above and beyond duty for their students in a pandemic year.

Tuesday, 7 December: Exceptional teachers across Australia and New Zealand were recognised for their outstanding contributions to student education and welfare in a year of pandemic and education leadership in the Futurity-sponsored National Excellence in Teaching Awards presentation today.

Recipients (listed below) included beginner teachers, long-standing school principals and a preschool team winning various awards. NEiTA Award winners each receive a beautiful trophy, a certificate of merit and a professional development grant of $5,000 or $10,000.

NEiTA chairman Allen Blewitt said each of this year’s winners have demonstrated that while education changes lives, it is teachers that can transform students’ futures.

“Lockdowns and school closures created risks of isolation and loss of motivation for many students. Each of our worthy recipients demonstrated how great teaching can help students thrive in varied and innovative ways.

In a pandemic, this year’s winners have each shown 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.”

Professor Patricia Davidson, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Wollongong, who delivered the keynote address at the event on Reimagining a better world driven by education, said that teachers strive to make a difference in the world every day. “[They do it] for little accolade but the joy of seeing achievement in others.”

“This is a year when they [teachers] have been truly exceptional and gone beyond and it is a year in home-schooling that the curtains have been pulled back and the reality of the depth, difficulty and complexity of teachers’ work exposed… So, this year, this celebration and recognition is even more important…”

There were a lot of challenges in what we defined our previous normal - now is the time to shift our dial and change our focus building on the good things and getting rid of the structures and processes that have held us back. But, more importantly we need to recognise the achievement of teachers - this should be part of our new normal,” Prof Davidson said.

Award categories

This year, the NEiTA Awards feature some new categories:

  • Apple Award: which acknowledges outstanding primary and secondary teachers who,in a year of pandemic, have gone above and beyond to support the education and welfare of their students.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

The Smith Family’s Deputy CEO Judy Barraclough, who took part in the awards ceremony and presented the Powering Potential Award, said supporting a child’s education is the best way to help break the cycle of disadvantage.

In launching the Award in July, Barraclough stated that “We recognise teachers as key change-agents in all of our partner schools. This year we are thrilled to inaugurate with NEiTA Foundation and Futurity a special award to highlight these contributions.”

Nominees for the Powering Potential Award are drawn from teachers nominated from Australian schools supported by The Smith Family. The award was presented to two inspirational teachers – Romine Maione and Andrew FitzSimons - this year. Each award carries a $10,000 professional development grant.

Additionally, the following awards were also presented:

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

Award recipients

The 2021 NEiTA Award winners are:


Recipient’s name




Dean Kreiger

Mordialloc Beach Primary School, Mordialloc, VIC

Apple Award

Emily Oostdam Leenhouwers

Secret Harbour Primary School, Secret Harbour, WA

Apple Award

Chin Hui Alvin Leo

Safety Bay Primary School, Safety Bay, WA

Apple Award, NEiTA Early Career Teaching Award​

Casey Gardiner

Coolbellup Learning Centre, Coolbellup, WA

Apple Award, Teacher Mentor Award

Ella Martin

The Lakes College, North Lakes, QLD

Apple Award

Sarah Adams

St Mary’s College, Hobart, TAS

Apple Award

Alicia (Leash) Giles

Xavier Catholic College Bathurst Island, Wurrumiyanga, NT

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

Kristin Bell

Medowie Christian School, Medowie, NSW

Apple Award

Timothy Rowberry

John Curtin College of the Arts, Fremantle, WA

Apple Award

Chris Mundey

Good Shepherd Lutheran College, Noosaville, QLD

Apple Award

Derek Patulny

Fort Street High School, Petersham, NSW

​Apple Award

Jennifer Gorey

Ngalangangpum School, Warmun, WA

​Seed Award, Futurity Parents’ Award

Toukley Preschool Team

Toukley Preschool Kindergarten Inc., Toukley, NSW

NEiTA Seed Award for Early Childhood Team Excellence

​Amanda Ford

KU ANSTO Children’s Centre, Lucas Heights, NSW

Seed Award

Jeremy Stowe Lindner

Bialik College, Hawthorn, VIC

NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership

Peter Kent

Birrigai Outdoor School, Tharwa, ACT

NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership

Amanda Tawhai

Newmark Primary, Williamstown, VIC

​NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership

Andrew FitzSimons

Dapto High School, Dapto, NSW

The Smith Family-NEiTA Award for Powering Potential

Romina Maione

Albion Park Rail Public School, Albion Park Rail, NSW

The Smith Family-NEiTA Award for Powering Potential

New Zealand

Chandra Littlewood

Moriah Kindergarten, Te Aro, NZ

Seed Award, NEiTA Early Careers Teaching Award

Darren Kerr

​Whareama School, Whareama, NZ

Apple Award

Erika Jenkins

Ormiston Senior College, Flat Bush, NZ

Apple Award

Derren Coles

Avonside Girls’ High School, North New Brighton, NZ

Apple Award, Futurity Parents’ Award

Leanne Mary Elizabeth Otene

Manaia View School, Raumanga, NZ

NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership, Teacher Mentor Award

“The NEiTA Awards were established to recognise inspirational teachers in the community. We understand the potential of education to change lives, but it is our teachers who effect that change,” said Mr Blewitt.

The NEiTA Awards began in 1994 in Australia and in 1996 in New Zealand. Since inception, more than 42,000 teachers have been nominated by the community in the two countries. More than 1,075 teachers have received over $1,200,000 in professional development grants and prizes.

Media contact

For further information or to arrange an interview with the NEiTA recipients in Australia and NEiTA Chairman Allen Blewitt, please contact:

David McHugh

Clout PR & Content

+61 455 225 688

To arrange an interview with the NEiTA recipients in New Zealand, please get in touch with:

Penny Hartill

Director, Hpr

021 721 424


Futurity Investment Group provides innovative tax effective solutions to help fund education.

Since being founded more than 45 years ago, Futurity has supported the education journey of over 565,000 Australian and New Zealand children and returned more than $3.4 billion in education benefits.

Futurity is a member owned and mutually structured financial institution which currently manages and invests over $1 billion in education savings and investments for more than 70,000 members.

To help advance the teaching profession, and to support quality education, Futurity funds the NEiTA Foundation, which is responsible for the annual National Excellence in Teaching Awards.

For more information visit: and


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