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Exceptional Teachers Receive National Excellence In Teaching Awards

Press Release – National Excellence in Teaching Awards

In a year like no other, five of New Zealand’s top early childhood, primary and secondary school educators have received National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) for their outstanding contributions to teaching and education leadership.

The Awards, which are now in their 27th year, are supported by Futurity Investment Group. This year’s recipients range from beginner teachers to long-standing principals based all over New Zealand.

NEiTA chairman and convenor of judges 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 this year of 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. This is also seen in how each has meaningfully promoted Māori achieving as Māori in a way that has gone beyond the classroom.

“We also valued that several of this year’s recipients demonstrated to students the importance of care for our environment – as a core part of their curriculum,” says Mr Blewitt.

The 2021 National Excellence in Teaching Awards winners are:

Chandra Littlewood of Moriah Kindergarten (Wellington) – Seed Award, Early Career Teachers’ Award ($5,000 professional development grant)

Darren Kerr of Whareama School (Masterton) – Apple Award ($5,000 professional development grant)

Erika Jenkins of Ormiston Senior College (Manukau, Auckland) – Apple Award ($5,000 professional development grant)

Derren Coles of Avonside Girls’ High School (Christchurch) – Apple Award, Futurity Parents’ Award ($5,000 professional development grant)

Leanne Otene of Manaia View School (Whangārei) – NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership and Outstanding Mentor Award ($10,000 professional development grant)

Early childhood educator Chandra Littlewood of Moriah Kindergarten was honoured with Seed Award for early childhood educators, and the Early Career Teachers’ Award.

The Seed Award recognises the efforts of pre-school teachers, and early childhood educators, who lay the foundations for lifelong practice and enjoyment of learning.

Ms Littlewood’s nominator said she has led the teachers, children and their whānau on a journey towards more sustainable living with a respect for our environment.

“Chandra has worked tirelessly and lovingly to earn the Enviroschool silver award for Moriah, but more than that is the long-lasting effect she has had on the children and their views and actions.

“One of Moriah’s graduates is in election to be her primary school’s Enviro Minister. In her speech she mentioned how it was Chandra that started her on this journey,” says Ms Littlewood’s parent nominator.

The Early Career Teaching Award is a special award which recognises the achievement of someone who has been teaching for less than five years. It’s given to those who manage to incorporate advanced strategies to meet the learning needs of their students.

In acknowledging Chandra’s Early Career Teaching Award, the judges highlighted the value to the profession of bringing in mature people with skills, life experience and a passion for teaching.

Darren Kerr, a teacher at Whareama School, and Erika Jenkins, a teacher at Ormiston Senior College, won Apple Awards for their outstanding contribution to student education and leadership in teaching.

Ms Jenkins is known for her ability to teach students and teachers how to better understand and appreciate Māori language and culture. She works with Māori and Pasifika students, is the school’s SENCO overseer, helps with netball and looks after the school’s teacher aide team – all in addition to her primary role as a senior English teacher at Ormiston Senior High School.

“Erika is a massive role model and I’d love to someday be able to do as much for our school community as Erika does. She is one of the most hard working and caring people that I know,” says her colleague nominator.

Mr Kerr is both a teacher and the principal of rural Whareama School. He is an accomplished primary and middle school educator, and introduced ‘forest learning’ to the school.

“Darren will help anyone in any way he can. He leads by example and in a positive and organised way, ensuring his team of staff and students have fun and strive for excellence. He has done his utmost to support me. He is such a positive person to be around,” says his colleague nominator.

Derren Coles, a music teacher at Avonside Girls’ High School won an Apple Award and this year’s Futurity Parents’ Award. 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.

One parent who nominated Mr Coles says: “he has managed to successfully engage a wide variety of children from many varied backgrounds in a way that seems to make the student believe they are capable of anything.

“He is a popular and respected classroom teacher. He has been able to build strong relationships with his students by showing a personal interest in their development and growth. Students are able to recognise his genuine concern for their wellbeing and engagement in education. Derren uses humour to break down communication barriers and build a strong rapport with his students. He has applied pressure to achieve when he has thought this is required, but has done so in a manner that has empowered the student to want to do so.

“Derren is an inspirational music educator.”

Manaia View School principal Leanne Otene (Te Rarawa) won the Outstanding Mentor Award and the NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership. Ms Otene has been a principal and leader in her community for 26 years.

In Awarding the prize to Ms Otene, Mr Blewitt says Leanne has taken formal mentorship training as well as being a first-time principal mentor for many years.

“It is easy for non-teachers to underestimate the importance of good mentoring. It is one of the key determinants for young teachers staying in the profession; it is also a hallmark of a true professional who gives of their knowledge and experience to enrich the next generation of teachers.

“Leanne’s role in the mentorship of Principals resulted in invitations to share her knowledge as a Keynote to the Adelaide University conference for the More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative (MATSITI) Project, and twice to subsequent Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Trans-Tasman conferences.

“Our judges recognised that Leanne’s exemplary leadership shone through her school’s COVID response. She sought out learnings from educators across the globe, staying alert to trends, including strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of remote learning environments. She also regularly shared 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.”

Futurity CEO, Ross Higgins said each of these educators has displayed outstanding resilience, passion and creativity.

“These teachers and principals, by their professionalism, enthusiasm and care, continue to shape the lives of countless young New Zealanders. We warmly congratulate each of them and all of their hardworking colleagues,” says Mr Higgins.

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