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Exceptional teachers receive National Excellence in Teaching Awards

Four early childhood, primary and secondary school educators from across the motu, each demonstrating outstanding teaching practice and leadership, have been honoured with National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA).

They are:

Mina Pomare-Peita of Te Kura Taumata O Panguru (Northland) – NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership ($10,000 professional development grant).

Amie Roberts of Ngā hau e wha – Cluster 28 (Wellington) – Apple Award ($5,000 professional development grant) and Teacher Mentor Special Award.

Coadette Low of Mt Albert Grammar School (Auckland) – Apple Award ($5,000 professional development grant).

Donna Williams of Elm Tree Learning Centre (Tauranga) – Seed Award ($5,000 professional development grant).

Mina Pomare-Peita, winner of the NEiTA Founders’ Principals Award for Leadership, accepted the invitation from Te Rarawa kaumatua to become tumuaki of Te Kura Taumata O Panguru 27 years ago. The school has thrived under her vision of taiao place-based education, taught in te reo Māori medium.

Ms Pomare-Peita’s teacher nominator Nadine Scully says using mātaurangatanga together with science has taught students to be proud kaitiaki of their whenua.

“Mina is Panguru born and bred and grew up living off the land with the mātauranga, kupu, and pūrākau of Te Rarawa passed down to her. Her desire to ensure tamariki have that same mātauranga – taught through waiata, games, incantations, instructions, karakia and workshops – is the catalyst for our school’s strong ties to our taiao, along with relationships,” says Ms Scully.

Ms Pomare-Peita said she is unapologetically passionate about the intelligence of her people.

“As a secondary school teacher our teaching lives are dominated by assessment and unfortunately the academic ability of a student is determined by three priorities, reading, writing and maths. There is more to living than these three achievement results. We put te reo Māori, taiao and whanaungatanga at the forefront of all learning,” says Ms Pomare-Peita.

Coadette Low, Head of Agriculture at Mt Albert Grammar School, won a NEiTA Apple Award for her grass-roots innovation and expertise and for her extensive mentorship to students and the wider primary industry sector.

Stephanie McQuillian who nominated Ms Low for the award says she is an exceptional educator in what is a predominately male sector.

“Coadette is a leading light for other female educators to pursue a career in agriculture. She has expert knowledge in her field. She is passionate, progressive and consistently seeks new ways to improve her practice,” says Ms McQuillian.

“She really goes above and beyond leading the next generation.”

Ms Low says she has a passion for teaching agriculture with its relevance to real-life applications.

“My students’ engagement in the taught content is incredibly motivating and rewarding. Seeing their successes and learnings from failure is a privilege. I regularly bring in primary industry leaders to meet the students, who provoke their passion for the subject, inspiring them into a world of achievable possibilities,” says Ms Low.

Amie Roberts, a Ngā Hau e Wha Resource Teacher of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) won a NEiTA Apple Award and a Teacher Mentor Special Award for her success in implementing Structured Literacy into schools across the cluster, which stretches across west and central Wellington up to Plimmerton.

Ms Roberts’ parent nominator Amber Parry Strong says Amie’s passion and hard work has lifted literacy rates in in dozens of Wellington schools.

“Amie has a real ability to work alongside teachers in schools, supporting them to implement Structured Literacy,” says Ms Parry Strong.

Ms Roberts says she is passionate about encouraging teachers to establish evidence-based practices so that every student has the opportunity to be fluent readers and writers.

“At one school I work at, their initial 6-year-old cohort went from 44% at or above expectation to 93% at or above after two years of teaching Structured Literacy.

“At another school, only 33% of Year 6 students were at the expected spelling level for their year group. After one year of teaching Structured Literacy, 66% of students in this same cohort are now at or above the expected curriculum level for spelling. These sorts of results keep me highly motivated,” says Ms Roberts.

Donna Williams, an early childhood teacher at Tauranga’s Elm Tree Learning Centre won a NEiTA Seed Award for her empowering and empathetic approaches to tamariki that promote a lifelong enjoyment of learning.

Ms Williams’ parent nominator Lisa Taylor says Donna extended their son’s knowledge and pounced on his motivation to learn at every level.

“We will be forever grateful to her for putting in the hard yards to make him the young man he is today,” says Ms Taylor.

Ms Williams says it is a privilege to teach and inspire someone else’s child, so while tamariki are in her care she makes them feel loved, respected and valued.

“I was shy and anxious in my early years and didn’t do well at school. I felt I wasn’t smart enough to study until aged 45 when I set aside those fears so I could help our young people to believe in themselves and know they have a voice and are valued. I see each tamaiti for the uniqueness they offer, and nurture their emotional wellbeing with gentle guidance and plenty of reassurance,” says Ms Williams.

The winners travelled to Melbourne, Australia to receive their honours at a luncheon ceremony on hosted by Futurity Investment Group which has supported the awards since inception 29 years ago.

NEiTA Chair Catherine O’Sullivan said the large number of nominations is a testament to the respect and admiration felt by parents, colleagues and the wider community for teachers and principals at all education levels.

“Teachers are society’s bedrock, encouraging tamariki and rangatahi to pursue their learning aspirations – in whichever field that may be.

“All four winners are highly experienced educators, averaging 17 years in the profession, each demonstrating the importance of life-long learning.

“These teachers manage dynamic classrooms and display a passion for building inclusive cultures where students are challenged to think outside the box to solve real-world problems.

“Their awards acknowledge the extraordinary work they each do to engage learners in specific ways including te ao Māori, holistic care, education outside the classroom, and with pathways for neurodiverse learners. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude,” says Ms O’Sullivan.

The 2023 awards received a record number of 2,525 nominations across Australia and New Zealand.


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