Alumni stories

Hear from our alumni about their awards journey, from nomination, to winner and how their professional development grant positively impacted their careers.

Michelle's story: A chance to celebrate

Campbell McKay, Outstanding School Advancement Award, 2017 winner
Michelle Roberts, Outstanding Secondary Principal and Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education, 2019 winner

Following years of her Senior Education Improvement Leader (SEIL) encouraging her to apply for an award, Mordialloc Secondary College principal Michelle Roberts decided 2019 was finally the year.

“After a few light nudges from my colleagues, I decided that it would be great recognition for the school to be involved. My SEIL, Area Director and Regional Director supported my application and it was wonderful to receive such a positive endorsement.”

For Michelle, the award wasn’t only about her contribution, but the school community as a whole.

“It has certainly been a huge honour to win this award. I’ve asked a lot of my community over the past nine years and I’m so proud of my staff and students’ achievements. The award was something that all members of our community could celebrate!”

Michelle intends on using a recent school review to shape how she uses the grant in 2020 and 2021.

She also encourages other schools and their staff to think about the possibilities an award grant can offer a school.

“Winning an award is a fantastic opportunity to be able to go and do something you wouldn’t normally think of doing because of the cost; and its opportunity to share this experience with other members of your team to build their capacity.”

Bruthen Primary School's story: Activating student agency 

Campbell McKay, Outstanding School Advancement Award, 2017 winner
Bruthen Primary School, Outstanding Koorie Education Award, 2018 winner

Following their 2018 Outstanding Koorie Education Award win, Bruthen Primary School principal Michelle Young wanted to share the great news with her wider school community.

“Our community was ecstatic to learn of our win and joined us in holding a community celebration evening dinner and of course a community yarn!”

Post celebration it was time to focus on how best to use their grant.

“We wanted to ensure all staff would be able to benefit with professional development and our students.”

A team of five students were also invited to participate in the professional development plan in the role of ‘Student Learning Commissioners’.

“Our aim was to activate student voice and agency, so our Student Learning Commissioners could lead a ‘Learning Inquiry’ which would improve learning outcomes for all their peers.”

Michelle explains how winning the award created new opportunities for her school.

“Winning this award enabled us to access external expertise that we ordinarily would not have been able to afford. We were able to attend conferences in the city and also bring experts in their field to our school.”

“We are extremely grateful for this opportunity and I know we are a better school for it.”

Kerri's story: A journey of learning

Campbell McKay, Outstanding School Advancement Award, 2017 winner
Kerri Smith, Outstanding Primary Teacher, 2018 winner

Nominated by her Fish Creek Primary School colleagues, Kerri Smith had no real expectation of winning the award – even after being invited to the award night!

“I hadn’t really prepared a speech as I truly wasn’t expecting to have to make one!”

After winning Outstanding Primary Teacher in 2018, Kerri was able to take up a career long goal of extending her knowledge in numeracy all thanks to her awarded grant money.

“Coming from a small school, professional development can sometimes be a luxury to teachers in time and cost. Number-sense for Prep - Year 2 has always an area of interest for me and this grant allowed me to explore this and share my extended knowledge with my students and colleagues.

Kerri’s professional development flourished beyond her grant and award, culminating in her delivering a presentation at the Math Association of Victoria’s annual conference.

“Looking back at the whole process as I delivered multiple sessions on my research to fellow teachers, I was so grateful to my Fish Creek colleagues for seeing something in me. It really is the greatest compliment to know what you are doing in the classroom isn’t going unnoticed by your peers.”


Campbell’s story: Reflecting on success

Campbell McKay, Outstanding School Advancement Award, 2017 winner
Campbell McKay, Outstanding School Advancement Award, 2017 winner

Campbell McKay’s school leadership team at Swan Hill North Primary were surprised by his suggestion to self-nominate for the Outstanding School Advancement Award in 2017.

“My team looked at me strangely when I suggested we nominate. They still look at me strangely but we have now won a Victorian Education Excellence Award, and this has given us a lot of confidence to move forward in a considered direction. We’re a small team here at Swan Hill North, so it would be easy to rule ourselves out. But now we know there are no limits to success.”

Campbell advises other school leaders to invest in the nomination process.

“Don’t hold back, nominate yourself or someone else. The journey of just thinking about what you are doing and why you are doing this is really valuable in itself. That refection about your work and why you or someone else should be considered is justification for putting your hand up.”

Brett's story: Sharing the benefit

Campbell McKay, Outstanding School Advancement Award, 2017 winner
Brett Coad, Outstanding Business Manager, 2017 winner

Following his 2017 Outstanding Business Manager award, Brett wanted to maximise on how he could benefit his whole school community.

“Though the role of Business Manager is separate to the work happening in the classroom, we all have the same goal – to better our students and their outcomes. That’s why it was essential for me to use the grant wisely to support Kurnai College.”

Brett divided his grant into two parts. The first involved engaging literacy expert Dr Carol Christensen to develop and implement the pilot of TR@K (Targeted Reading at Kurnai) – a literacy intervention program.

“It was incredible seeing results happen so quickly, students developing their literacy abilities that will support their learning and lives forever.”

Following the success of TR@K, Brett extended his sights on how he could help beyond his school gates to the wider South-Eastern region.

He decided to share his wealth of knowledge on systems and strategies that improve a school’s financial position – visiting 22 schools across his region. His efforts strengthened the collaborative culture of schools in the region.

“It has been personally and professionally rewarding to have the additional time to help support student outcomes at the local school level and engage with the wider education community.”

Hayley’s story: Honouring the work

Hayley Dureau, Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award 2016 winner
Hayley Dureau, Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award 2016 winner

Hayley Dureau, Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award 2016 winner, reflected recently on her experiences:

“It was a huge honour for my Principal to nominate me for this award. It was a surprise, and at the time I didn’t realise what a big deal it was to be nominated, let alone win it! It made me feel like my Principal and school community recognised and valued the work that I was doing.”

Hayley understands that the time it takes to nominate for an award might be challenging, but she says, “Do it.

I know the application might seem overwhelming and if you’re working in a school then you have two million other things on your to-do list… but do it. If you take out the award it could change your life, and if you don’t win, you still get the honour of being nominated and you might even be a finalist and attend the awards night!”

Hayley put the grant towards attending the Harvard Graduate School of Education, presenting at a student voice conference in Vermont and completing a Masters of Instructional Leadership at the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education.