2017 Victorian Education Excellence Awards Winners

​​​​​ Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education​

Steven Cook

Albert Park College

As the Foundation Principal of Albert Park College, Steven Cook led the re-establishment of the school following its closure in 2006 – as Albert Park Secondary College – due to unviable student enrolments. Charged with the daunting challenge of regaining community confidence, Steven instead saw a unique opportunity – and took to relaunching Albert Park College with dedication, optimism and determination. Steven made some bold moves to re-engage the local community and deliver on his promise of education excellence.

He partnered with local businesses and raised almost $1million to transform a 150-year-old building into an award-winning Year 9 campus that focuses on the intersection between the environment and the arts. 

He also established community partnerships with sports and arts organisations – creating an annual arts show to bring local artists into the school, and launching a school-community literary festival with resounding success. Upon re-opening the school in 2011, Steven made the decision to ask all students to buy an iPad – a relatively new device at the time. He is now a recognised leader in online digital learning.

Under Steven’s leadership, the college now has a strong emphasis on differentiated high-expectation and high-demand teaching and learning. Steven’s focus on building a reputation of academic excellence has been achieved by his significant work in attracting exceptional educators and developing cutting edge facilities and curriculum.

In just six years, community confidence in Albert Park College has soared and the college has grown to three campuses with a fourth underway.  Under Steven’s vision and leadership, Albert Park College is a success story that now leads public education thinking and inspires other school communities​. Steven is also this year’s winner of the Outstanding Secondary Principal  Award, see below. To hear more, see: Steven Cook's story

Outstanding Koorie Education Award​

Berwick College ​

​Berwick College embraces diversity by creating an inclusive school culture, guided by the targets of the Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan. Berwick College celebrates Aboriginal culture throughout the school, and recognises that education is the key to unlocking understanding about Koorie history, customs and language. The school commitment is not token, it is evident to visitors and the wid er community.  

The college practises Acknowledgement and Welcome to Country and has a dedicated Koorie education section on its website. It presents the annual Dinlu Award (meaning proud in Wurundjeri) for Koorie students who demonstrate the college values of respect, integrity, perseverance, resilience and personal achievement.  

Emphasis is placed on the wellbeing of Koorie students and on fostering pride in their cultural identity.  The school is committed to providing a range of supports to break barriers to learning.  Koorie students have many opportunities to spend time together at morning teas and special events; they represent the Koorie cohort at student-led forums, and connect with their culture and community. The college also works closely with Indigenous community groups and local government to commemorate key dates including National Reconciliation Week.

The school goal of Bridging the Gap and making Koorie student outcomes a school-wide priority has given rise to a real sense of cultural identity and pride. Tailored career action plans and pathways for Koorie students to further education, training and work placements ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at Berwick College are able to succeed in work and life. To hear more, see: Berwick College's story

Outstanding Inclusive Education Award

Baltara School and Bendigo Special Developmental School 

In 2016, Baltara School and Bendigo Special Developmental School came together to provide the Bendigo Outreach Service as part of their Connected Communities Creating Capacity partnership.  The service provides wrap-around support to students in mainstream primary schools in Bendigo who demonstrate challenging behaviours, and are experiencing barriers to their learning.

By combining knowledge and expertise, the service places specialist educators within schools to coach and mentor teachers and facilitate the creation of learning and behaviour management plans, with a focus on prevention.

Students come from a range of backgrounds, some have experienced trauma, while others have learning disabilities or behavioural issues. Some students have never been able to manage formal schooling. Early intervention is key to shifting the course of a student’s journey to better learning, health and life outcomes. 

Parents say the program has improved their child’s social skills and behaviour, with some students demonstrating greater maturity, confidence and independence. The Bendigo Outreach School Service is a one-term program, where educators are placed in schools two days per week and work with up to three students over the term. Fortnightly visits are scheduled in the preceding term, to ensure teaching practices and supports are embedded. The service is focused on re-engagement. Personalised plans are designed to go with students as they progress, so their needs can be understood and responded to at any point on their education journey.​ To hear more, see: Baltara and Bendigo Developmental School's story

Outstanding School Advancement Award

Swan Hill North Primary School 

Swan Hill North Primary School is raising the aspirations of its students and reconceptualising traditional views of teaching.

The school’s journey started five years ago and, through researching best practice, the leadership team highlighted instruction as the most critical element in a school’s success. The team recognised that the most successful way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction. They soon created their own FLISC (Feedback, Learning, Intentions and Success Criteria) model and used this model to significantly lift student learning outcomes – evidenced by NAPLAN results. 

To further develop their new approach, the team emphasised the need for teacher collaboration and sharing of practice – with all staff members becoming experts in at least one area of the improvement model.

Recognising the strong link between academic results and social success, Swan Hill North Primary School has also embedded a positive student and staff culture by implementing the key tenets of positive psychology. Students have focused on reaching their potential and achieving targets by exploring a growth mindset. Creating frequent experiences of positive emotions is the goal of much work being done around strengthening relationships, increasing resilience and promoting mindfulness.

There has been a visible flow-on effect throughout the whole school community which has noticed and embraced the school’s progress in recent years. Student pride also emanates through a strong sense of belief and connectedness to their community.​ To hear more, see: Swan Hill North Primary School's story

Outstanding Education Support Team Award

Cranbourne East Secondary College

​When the Cranbourne East Secondary College wellbeing team conducted an analysis of attendance data, they identified some students in Years 7 to 9 were avoiding school due to high levels of anxiety, learning difficulties and challenges at home. 

Additionally, many of these students’ families did not engage with support services and were unaware of services in the local area that could help them.  In direct response to this, the wellbeing team designed a dual-enrolment re-engagement program for students to learn, in a safe and supportive environment, with wrap-around services to support students and families.

From this original idea, formed in 2016, the ‘Lift Off’ program began at the start of this year with 18 students enrolled from seven local secondary schools in the region. ‘Lift Off’ aims to promote complete physical, emotional and social wellbeing through collaborative care from the family, school and community to which the young person is connected. 

‘Lift Off’ provides students with a meaningful pathway to help their transition back into mainstream school. It supports their vocational skills and helps with referrals to appropriate agencies.  The wrap-around program has been life-changing for many students and their families – renewing self-worth and hope for a brighter future. To hear more, see: Cranbourne East Secondary College's story

Outstanding Business Manager Award

Brett Coad

Kurnai College  ​

​​When Brett Coad became the business manager at Kurnai College, his first task was to rebuild the financial position of the school. By implementing new processes, overseeing facility upgrades and developing new funding models, he has rolled out transparent and fair systems.

Affectionately called the ‘Gippsland Guru’, Brett is generous with his expertise, not only at Kurnai College, but at other local schools.

Brett has attracted funding for the college from a wide range of grants and financial resources. He was integral to the establishment and development of the Kurnai Learning Hub, in partnership with the Smith Family. He has played a key role in the development of the Kurnai Young Parents Program and the Latrobe Valley Flexible Learning Option and ensured these important programs are viable, sustainable and supported financially. 

Brett has always placed student learning at the forefront of his thinking and has a detailed understanding of the college’s priorities and aims. His focus is on how the college can achieve these aims and how he can facilitate the necessary resources. Brett has a keen sense of fairness and social justice and has advocated strongly for programs such as the Kurnai Pantry, canteen vouchers, food hot spots and support for students.

Brett is also committed to sustainability at his school, and has successfully applied for water and energy grants to reduce the college’s energy usage. To hear more, see: Brett Coad's story

Outstanding Primary Teacher Award

Emma Ross

Canterbury Primary School​ 

Emma Ross is passionate about the role of student voice and teacher relationships as the foundation of a child’s engagement and success in education. She has a special interest in STEM curriculum and believes it can develop student skills in all areas of their learning – literacy, numeracy, creative thinking and problem solving. 

Emma’s targeted approach involves assessing the Zone of Proximal Development for each of her students, and designing explicit teaching that works for them.She has developed innovative learning models that resonate with inquisitive young minds and encourage responsible risk-taking and entrepreneurial thinking. She has run narrative writing workshops based on computer game characters, and introduced a school Makerspace where students and teachers explore, design and invent together in an ‘anything is possible’ learning environment. 

Emma also strives to model her teaching by mentoring and collaborating with her peers. She has a leadership role on her school’s STEM Annual Implementation Plan team and has run professional development sessions in teaching and assessing Science Inquiry Skills. Emma also led a ‘Young Minds of the Future’ project involving 500 students and teachers from local schools. Students developed products and solutions to identified problems and then connected with industry experts on Twitter to gain feedback about their innovations. The initiative was highly engaging and successful. Emma is passionate about reversing the under-representation of women in STEM careers and is determined to contribute to a solution by achieving deep learning outcomes in her own classroom and beyond. ​To hear more, see: Emma Ross's story

Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award

Nicole Marie

Point Cook Senior Secondary College​​

​Over the past eight years, Nicole Marie has developed multiple learning resources and teaching models that have supported her students to become empowered and independent learners.

As a senior English and literacy teacher at Point Cook Senior Secondary College, Nicole has brought about improvement in the reading and writing skills of vast numbers of students. Through targeted skills workshops and interactive ICT platforms, Nicole has helped achieve student performance growth in literacy and also in history. 

Nicole places student wellbeing on par with academic achievement, and believes that academic success is a bi-product of a happy learner. She is dedicated to helping the students at Point Cook build resilience, nurture their self-esteem and develop their own self-efficacy.  Nicole encourages her students to take charge of their own learning and become active constructors of their own knowledge. This, she believes, has an overwhelmingly positive flow-on effect on each student’s personal health, internal satisfaction, self-esteem and self-efficacy in life. 

In addition to supporting the young people in her school community, Nicole has also dedicated considerable time to helping fellow teachers reach their own potential. Nicole regularly mentors graduate teachers, and has opened her classroom to staff and pre-service teachers for learning walks and peer observation. She has facilitated numerous professional development workshops, is an active member of subject area networks, has contributed to various academic publications and is completing a thesis on critical literacy in secondary classrooms as part of a Master of Education. To hear more, see: Nicole Marie's story

Outstanding Primary Principal Award

Di Craig

Specimen Hill Primary School 

Di Craig is a passionate school leader who is committed to driving a culture that values excellence in practice and commitment to success across the education system.  Di has demonstrated a strong capacity to influence the system and make the most of the opportunities she has to do this.  She sees the system as an integrated whole, and believes that the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes affirmed the approach that she has had to teaching and learning throughout her entire  career in education.

Di inspires positive change throughout the system by contributing to numerous school reviews, workshops and strategy discussions, as well as participating in initiatives such as the Principal for a Day program and international research projects.

She was a founding member of the Bendigo Team China group which forged sister-school relationships with schools in China, and she was an International Teacher Fellow to Colorado, in the USA, where she was presented with a Teacher of the Year Award for demonstrating excellence.  Di has led Specimen Hill Primary School with a focus on high expectations and establishing a vision for each child’s future.

An important part of Di’s approach to lifting student outcomes is to build a community of learning that empowers parents to make a commitment to their child’s educational and life outcomes, and stay involved in this process. Di’s commitment and leadership has contributed to  visible improvement in student performance at Specimen Hill Primary School. ​To hear more, see: Di Craig's story

​Outstanding Secondary Principal Award 

Steven Cook

Albert Park College

Steven Cook is also this year’s winner of the Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education. To hear more, see: Steven Cook's story