Tarewa Williams says his school’s low-decile rating doesn’t stop him or his students from achieving. The Curriculum Leader of Science at One Tree Hill College in Auckland was one of six educators to be recognised at the ASG National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) last week at an official ceremony hosted by Education Minister Chris Hipkins in Wellington.

“It is a common mistake to label the staff, students and family of these types of (low decile) school as low rung achievers. Coming from a similar personal background, I have the ability to make the connection with the community, and plot successful negotiation of the obstacles presented by environmental factors,” says Williams.

Selected from more than 200 nominations, the recipients were honoured for their inspiring and innovative contributions to teaching. They each received a $5000 professional development grant.

The recipients are: Karen Barkle, deputy principal at Ongaonga School in the Hawke’s Bay; Daisy Docherty, early childhood education teacher at Kristen School in Albany, Auckland; Glenys Parry, head of art at Craighead Diocesan School in Timaru; Katie Pennicott, deputy principal at Invercargill Middle School; Helen Peters, early childhood education teacher at Kidsfirst Kindergarten in Beckenham, Christchurch and Tarewa Williams, Curriculum Leader of Science at One Tree Hill College in Auckland.

Katie Pennicott didn’t let her difficult start in life stop her from achieving her goal of becoming a teacher. “In my family, university wasn’t ever discussed as my family members had not completed secondary school or continued on to tertiary education,” she says.

“My passion for education is at the very heart of who I am. Each and every day is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students.”

ASG NEiTA Chairman Allen Blewitt says the recipients have made their mark in local communities throughout New Zealand.

“It’s so wonderful to see teachers being singled out by members of the community for their personal contribution to education. It’s in local townships, farming villages and indeed larger city centres where our ASG NEiTA recipients can be the heartbeat of these communities. For every student they teach, they could be impacting multiple lives as they establish relationships with parents, grandparents and connect the home and school life—creating an eco-system of continued and shared learning and support networks.”

Now in its 21st year, the ASG NEiTA awards have contributed more than $1 million in professional development grants to outstanding teachers in Australia and New Zealand.

The national recipients were selected by a panel of four judges comprising President NZ Schools Trustees Association, Lorraine Kerr (MNZM); John Paul College Principal, Patrick Walsh; Head of Department English, Social Sciences and Languages for Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology, Joanne Hayes; former Vice-President Secondary Principals’ Association of NZ (SPANZ), John Day and NEiTA Chairman Allen Blewitt.

The selection process is rigorous, including a comprehensive nomination outline, a written paper and video presentation by the nominated teacher. Parents, grandparents, secondary student councils, school boards, councils, parent associations, committees of management and community organisations throughout New Zealand nominated the six recipients.

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