The ASG National Excellence in Teacher Awards (NEiTA) aim to recognise inspiring and innovative contributions to teaching.

Six teachers, spanning ECE, primary and secondary education were honoured in a ceremony on February 23, receiving professional development grants of $5000 each.

Tarewa Williams is curriculum leader of science at One Tree Hill College in Auckland and believes that teaching is not only a special profession, but unique in its ability to offer and support capacity to others.

“Teachers have the privilege of working with the next generation that will lead our future families, communities, business, country and society,” he says.

“As our children are our taonga, I believe that lending positive support to their journey’s is vital to everyone’s success.”

Inspired by the Māori pedagogy of tuakana-teina, where both teacher and student can lend expertise to the learning journey, he says choosing to become a teacher was an easy decision.

“I imagined, and subsequently confirmed, teaching as a dynamic environment where learning could occur in all directions. I hoped that aspiration and inspiration could be freely exchanged and that my input would result in positive shift.”

Williams is also driven by the contribution he can make to his community, and says the relationship between a teacher and student has a profound impact on success.

“Naturally, this can flow directly to their whānau and subsequently to their communities. We are all the product of who we come from and the environments we are raised in. As I have been blessed to have many positive influencers that supported my own life journey, including teachers that inspired and exhorted me to be my best self, then personal experience can confirm the assertion that great teaching, or who we think is a great teacher, can make a world of difference.”

Williams extends the hopes and dreams he has for his own son to his students.

“Transferring this same philosophy to other students is an easy transition because other people’s sons and daughters deserve the same opportunities to also be their best selves.

“Since ‘success breeds success’ it becomes wonderfully self-fulfilling to continue to re-engage time and again. Being part of someone’s success is a great incentive to continue driving oneself forward, and is also a sincerely humbling experience in the process.”

Katie Pennicott is deputy principal at Invercargill Middle School and says she was once mentored by a teacher who gave her the confidence to complete her degree.

“In my family, university wasn’t ever discussed as my family members had not completed secondary school or continued on to tertiary education.”

“It took one person’s voice of encouragement, and I aim to be that voice for my students. 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.”

She believes there are many qualities that make a ‘good’ teacher, including active listening, respect, communication, responsiveness, professional knowledge, effective practice, collegiality, determination, creativity, commitment and passion.

Like Williams, Pennicott treasures the reciprocal and continuous nature of teaching and learning.

“Dr Rangimarie Pere describes human beings as learners from the time we are born until the time we die and I believe this is at the heart of teaching.

“We are teachers, but we are also learners as we undertake a spiral of constant inquiry, reflection and action into our practice.

“The other quality that I believe is most important is compassion. An example of this would be when a student is late for school. There is a big difference between “You’re late!” and “I notice you’re late today- is everything ok?” What we say and how we say it impacts all aspects of teaching and learning.”

Invercargill Middle School was a joint 2017 winner of a Prime Minister’s Education award, due in large part to Pennicott’s work with oral language and teacher-student interaction.

She also works as an across school leader in a Community of Learning, which involves collecting and analysing school stories, theories of improvement and achievement data with a special focus on teacher practice in writing.

This year, Pennicott has focused on building culturally responsive relationships build on mana ōrite (equal partnerships) with whānau at her school, by extending the regular cycles of parent interviews, student-led conferences and whānau meetings each term.

“I have structured these meetings from a position of culturally responsive research- as a co-participant and listener- rather than an expert,” she explains.

This work has led to rich responses from the school community which will support further planning as the year goes on.

Read more about the ASG NEiTA awards here.

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