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Two remarkable educators recognised for helping children to break the cycle of disadvantage

Two Illawarra educators have been recognised for their remarkable efforts supporting students experiencing disadvantage.

Principal of Dapto High School, Andrew FitzSimons and Albion Park Rail Public School deputy principal, Romina Maione have both won an Award for Powering Potential from the National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) in partnership with The Smith Family. This new accolade recognises the extraordinary contribution educators make to students experiencing disadvantage.

Andrew has fostered a range of innovative partnerships with local community groups and organisations like The Smith Family, to ensure children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are supported in their education.

A teacher since 1976, Andrew said his passion for the profession has not waned.

“Our work is real, authentic and valuable. If Dapto High School is a good school, then our community is safer, more creative, resilient, and productive,” said Andrew.

“The role of pal gives me extraordinary opportunities and responsibilities, and while these can sometimes seem overwhelming, I love it.

“When I need a lift, I walk the school and my interactions with students inspires and energises me.”

At Albion Park Rail Public School, deputy principal Romina Maione refers children who need extra support for their education to The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program. In partnership with The Smith Family the school has launched an after-school Learning Club staffed by volunteers to give students who need additional educational support a hand up.

An inspiring educator, Romina is committed to improving students’ wellbeing and said her passion for education is just as strong today as it was when she started teaching two decades ago.

“The greatest accomplishments are seeing students master a skill like learning to read or write, but most of all seeing them fall in love with learning,” Romina said.

“I have so many wonderful memories of the schools I have worked in, the students I have taught, the staff I have worked with and the families I have gotten to know.”

Romina said receiving a NEiTA Award is a career highlight.

“I feel very honoured to be receiving such an award, especially considering the number of outstanding educators in Australia,” Romina said.

Andrew also said he is quietly “chuffed” about winning a NEiTA Award.

“In my 18th year as principal of Dapto High School, this accolade is a new experience. I am in the second half of my professional career now and this award has energised and encouraged me,” Andrew said.

NEiTA Chairman, Allen Blewitt, said educators like Andrew and Romina display outstanding resilience, passion and creativity every day.

“These qualities have become all the more important during the pandemic,” Allen said.

“Teachers have been at the frontline, adapting to the pressures of lockdowns and virtual teaching, while caring for student wellbeing.

“Reviewing Andrew and Romina’s nomination, it was clear their passion for education is infectious. It is not only their students who benefit, but the broader school community.

“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.”

Deputy CEO of The Smith Family, Judy Barraclough said, because of the education charity’s partnership with Futurity Investment Group, which funds the NEiTA Foundation, 70 young Australian experiencing disadvantage are supported every year.

“Together, we’re ensuring these students have the essentials they need to succeed at school and go on to finish Year 12,” Ms Barraclough said.

“Supporting a child’s education is an effective way of helping children to create better futures for themselves.”

The National Excellence in Teaching Awards started in 1994 in Australia and 1996 in New Zealand. Since inception, nearly 40,000 teachers have been nominated by the community in the two countries. More than 1,075 teachers have received over $1.2 million in professional development grants and prizes.

Media contact

For further information or to arrange an interview with Andrew FitzSimons and NEiTA Chairman Allen Blewitt, please contact:

David McHugh

Clout PR & Content

+61 455 225 688

About Futurity Investment Group

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

About The Smith Family

The Smith Family is a national children’s education charity helping young Australians in need to succeed at school, so they can create better futures for themselves.

For more information visit:


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