2021 award winners

The winners of the 2021 Victorian Education Excellence Awards were selected from a shortlist of 41 finalists from government schools across Victoria. Eight individual awards and six team awards were presented to recognise outstanding endeavour and achievement in improving student outcomes.

In addition, the Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education was awarded to one overall winner whose contribution was judged to be the most outstanding to Victorian school education.

Congratulations to all of the 2021 Award winners.

Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education

Armstrong Creek School

Andrew McConchie

Armstrong Creek School truly demonstrates inclusive educational practice by catering for students of all abilities, including a high proportion of learners with disabilities and additional needs. 

It utilises the best components of mainstream primary and special school settings under the one roof, enabling real inclusion involving the deliberate and planned use of all its resources. 

The school has developed a co-teaching instructional model delivered by expert teams of teachers, special educators, tutors and education support staff, that allows it to respond to each individual student. 

As the winner of the Lindsay Thompson Award for Excellence in Education, Armstrong Creek is sharing its practices, processes and philosophy with schools across the region and state, encouraging all to be inclusive. 

The school is passionate about Victoria being recognised nationally and internationally as providing high quality education for all.

Individual Awards

Outstanding Primary Principal

Garry Rolfe, Cranbourne East Primary School

Garry Rolfe, Cranbourne East Primary School

Principal Garry Rolfe is well-known as a longstanding principal in the South-East region, dedicating much of his career to the Casey South Network where he has very successfully led two quite different schools – Cranbourne Primary School and Cranbourne East Primary School. 

Now leading Cranbourne East Primary, Garry has worked closely with all stakeholders since the early planning stages of the school, establishing his vision to foster happy, safe and engaged students in an inclusive, information technology-rich and student-centred global learning environment. 

 Garry's strategic management and leadership firmly positions students' needs at the centre of all decision-making and targeted resource allocation, and establishes the value of high expectations in supporting student achievement and wellbeing. 

A strong advocate of evidenced-based teaching and learning initiatives, Garry's highly effective and distributed leadership approach has significantly increased the professional learning and leadership capacity of his staff, and continues to make a significant contribution to the building of system-wide leadership capacity across network schools in the region.

Colin Simpson Outstanding Secondary Principal

Deborah Harman, Balwyn High School

Deborah Harman

Deborah Harman, Principal of Balwyn High School for the last thirteen years, has led with an aspirational educational vision that sets challenging goals for teaching and support staff, and promotes school and system-wide commitment to achieving excellence in student outcomes. 

Balwyn High School has an outstanding record of excellence in VCE outcomes. The record of perfect ATAR scores students have achieved under Deborah's principalship is testament to the culture that has been built around excellence and her unwavering commitment to the sustained improvement of public education. 

Deborah has mentored four aspiring principals through Bastow's Unlocking Potential program, investing in their development well beyond their time at Balwyn High School, including supporting their successful transition to principalship. 

Recently completed building works at the school are the result of the largest self-funded project in government school history. Deborah's courage and leadership was instrumental in raising the support and funds necessary to provide these state-of-the-art learning facilities.

Outstanding Primary Teacher

Erin Beissel, Clarinda Primary School

A McConchie

Erin Beissel from Clarinda Primary School is applying evidence-based research and professional learning to drive improvement in teaching practices, and particularly in literacy instruction. 

Working from a strong foundation of learning and research, Erin has led the implementation of a consistent whole-school model of literacy instruction: the Reader's and Writer's Workshop, based on the Gradual Release of Responsibility model. 

Erin's use of a range of professional development settings has brought staff on board and changed their instructional practices to ensure high-quality learning outcomes for every student. Erin has worked with staff to embed different elements of the High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) into the new literacy instruction model, embedding tools such as differentiation, feedback, goal setting and explicit teaching, and applying data and evidence to support her instructional leadership. 

Erin's enthusiastic implementation of the new workshop model for Clarinda Primary has created a culture responsive to continuous learning and improvement, and focused on the best interests of students and school community.

Outstanding Secondary Teacher

Rachael Gore, Albert Park College

Rachael Gore

Rachael Gore is an innovative educator and numeracy leader, whose use of technology and engagement with students and teachers has contributed to Albert Park College's modernised approach to teaching. 

Rachael's pioneering of important new technologies in the classroom and her influential contribution to the college's (leading) professional learning program, has been instrumental in revolutionising the way mathematics, and other disciplines, are taught across the school. Creating a Numeracy Portal that provides online curriculum and numeracy support for Middle Years and Integration Aides, Rachael has also initiated multiple workshops and coaching sessions with teams and individuals that model numeracy teaching excellence, working with peers to design curriculum that embeds numeracy intervention. 

Rachael believes strongly in the potential of young people and is a major contributor to the College's positive education program. Rachael's commitment to improving students' welfare and levels of achievement has seen her students obtain perfect scores, win state-wide awards and score well-above the average for their final year results.

Outstanding Early Career Primary Teacher

Tiffany Thomas, Melton Primary School

Tiffany Thomas

Tiffany Thomas had a unique start to her teaching career, commencing at Melton Primary School in June 2020. Immediately immersed in remote teaching her very first class of grade six students, Tiffany quickly climbed a steep learning curve to engage with her students and colleagues she was yet to meet face-to-face. 

Tiffany focused firstly on building a rapport with her students and their families. Working diligently, she actively listened, formed understanding of other's perspectives, demonstrated discretion, respect and compassion, framing her questions constructively to identify and remove any barriers to remote learning. Expertly guiding the transition back to onsite learning, she continued to provide a responsive learning experience for all students. 

In a very short period of time, Tiffany has formed an exceptional knowledge of her students and their point of learning, adapting and adjusting her lessons accordingly, differentiating the individual learning needs of each. Now an instrumental member of the school's Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) leadership team, Tiffany is already a high-level contributor to whole-school improvement.

Outstanding Early Career Secondary Teacher

Daniel King, Lowanna College

Daniel King

In only his third year of teaching, Daniel King has led Lowanna College's Professional Learning Community, Middle Years Literacy and Numeracy Support initiative and the Tutor Learning Initiative, and has been instrumental in strong numeracy growth, evidenced in much improved NAPLAN numeracy results (2018-20). 

Working with peers to design and implement a data collection and analysis schedule and student progress tracking tools, Daniel's outstanding contribution has been critical to the refinement, evolution and effectiveness of the College's numeracy improvement plan. In addition to this work, Daniel leads weekly professional learning for educational support staff to build their mathematical capacity and confidence, enabling them to more actively participate in differentiated support within the classroom. 

Ensuring maths is engaging and accessible to all students regardless of ability or background, Daniel is working with students who are well below the minimum standard in mathematics, using diagnostic tests to identify mathematical misconceptions and designing tasks to address these misconceptions, resulting in outstanding improvement in students' outcomes.

Outstanding Physical Education and Activity Teacher

Chloe Dew, Black Hill Primary School

Chloe Dew

Physical Education teacher Chloe Dew, demonstrates a whole-school and community perspective on improvement at Black Hill Primary School. 

To promote positive health and a physically active culture, Chloe engages with digitally innovative, inclusive and culturally responsive education practices, creating an environment where students feel more empowered to have their say – not only in shaping their own learning, but in understanding the positive results of their agency. 

Chloe's rethinking of Physical Education delivery through cross-curricular lessons has increased student engagement and enabled all students to benefit from differentiated learning. During remote learning, Chloe embraced the opportunity to educate families about current physical education practices via a virtual classroom, engaging the whole family in her lessons. 

Chloe's roles as educational leader, board director with ACHPER Victoria and Region Coordinator with School Sport Victoria provide testament to her belief that the more connections she makes across school and community, the greater her ability to deliver high-quality learning opportunities for her students.

Outstanding Business Manager

Lynette Moloney, Western English Language School

Lynette Moloney

Lynette Moloney is the Business Manager for the Western English Language School – a multicultural, multicampus school for newly arrived refugee and migrant children in South Western Victoria. 

Managing the school's finance and resources, twenty-one Multicultural Education Aides and office staff across six campuses, brings additional administrative and financial challenges to what is a challenging role at any school. Lynette's ability to adapt and find practical and compassionate solutions that benefit staff and students, ensures the wellbeing and support of both. 

Lynette's compassion for the challenges faced by new arrivals to school and region, mean that she regularly goes above and beyond her role as Business Manager. During lockdowns this year and last year, this care has extended to organising food and clothing deliveries to refugee families, and initiating learning opportunities for parents to grow new skills and connect with their community. 

Lynette's exemplary contribution to the school is improving outcomes for staff and students, and the wider community of South Western Victoria.

Team Awards

Outstanding School Improvement

Banyule Primary School

Banyule Primary School

Banyule Primary School's motto 'Happy Kids Learn', is ensuring students' wellbeing needs are at the forefront of all that they do. Sharing their knowledge both within and beyond the school, Banyule Primary is actively contributing to educational improvement across the wider network. 

The Banyule Primary School Improvement Team (SIT) consists of five dynamic and dedicated staff members including the Assistant Principal and four Learning Specialists, who each have a specific leadership focus: Literacy, Numeracy, Assessment and Digital Technologies. 

The team's unrelenting focus on the planning and delivery of an effective, evidence-based instructional teaching and learning model has underpinned the school's consistent growth in high student achievement results and received positive endorsement from staff, student and parent surveys. 

Contributing beyond the school, the team are facilitating well-received workshops for network schools. The school is actively involved in the Banyule Nillumbik Schools Network, providing an opportunity for the SIT members to build leadership capacity and contribute to educational improvement across the region.

Outstanding Education Support Team

Croydon Primary School

Croydon Primary

Throughout the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the four Multicultural Education Aides (MEA) at Croydon Primary School have become a critical support to the school's large number of Burmese and other Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) families of mostly non-English speakers. 

Guiding CALD students and families through the health and educational implications of the pandemic and remote learning has required the MEAs to translate all communication between teachers, school, students and families into Hakha Chin, Falam, Zomi and Karen. 

When the school transitioned to remote learning in 2020, all learning materials and instructions for the computer were translated and supported with phone calls. For some families this support was frequent, due to their lack of English and limited technology expertise. The multi-lingual MEAs committed to learning the system and became 'expert' troubleshooters, removing any barriers to remote learning for students. 

The school's Falam and Hakha Chin MEAs are young men currently at university or recent graduates. Successfully educated through the Victorian education system as young boys and CALD students themselves, they now provide outstanding role models for senior students.

Outstanding Inclusive Education

Armstrong Creek School

Armstrong Creek School

One of Victoria's newest schools catering for students of all abilities, Armstrong Creek School has established a genuine commitment to supporting all learners at their point of need. To meet the diverse learning, social and behavioural needs of students, including a high proportion of learners with disabilities and additional needs, the school is modelling a truly inclusive education practice. 

To establish an inclusive school community, the Leadership Team at Armstrong Creek School understood the need to address how inclusive education could best be provided. Ensuring innovative learning and teaching is placed at the centre of wellbeing and achievement-integrated approaches, the school is applying the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Framework (MTSS) to ensure that all students receive the integrated academic and wellbeing instruction they need. 

Together with a highly adaptable learning environment, the MTSS, School-Wide Positive Behaviour Support and Professional Learning Communities, the school has developed a purposeful and widely understood instructional model that is improving learning outcomes for every student.

Outstanding Koorie Education

Berwick College

Berwick College

Berwick College's sustained commitment to working with their community to embed Aboriginal perspectives in a meaningful way, is ensuring Koorie students' cultural recognition and support are fulfilled through their participation in education. 

Berwick College's highly-trained staff, working with their Koorie Engagement Support Officer, Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups and community, are together creating a bi-cultural learning environment that respects, recognises and celebrates cultural identity through practice and curriculum. 

Developing strong links with the Indigenous community is critical, given many students have no contact or limited exposure to their cultural background at home. The important work being done by Berwick College embeds Aboriginal inclusion within all aspects of their education, engaging students with learning, carers and parents in ways that are improving Indigenous student outcomes. 

Berwick College understands and accepts their responsibility to ensure all their students understand Aboriginal perspectives and culture, and that their knowledge and significant contribution to improving outcomes for their Indigenous students is shared across the system.

Outstanding Provision for High-Ability Students

Tarneit Rise Primary School

Tarneit Rise Primary

Tarneit Rise Primary is a highly aspirational and inclusive community school where high-ability students' individual strengths, whether academic, social, creative or physical, are identified, acknowledged and nurtured towards excellence. 

The school delivers a supportive yet challenging Student Excellence program to their high-ability students, focused on the development of higher-order thinking, collaboration, teamwork and metacognition. Students are encouraged to be active leaders in their own learning, and are afforded multiple opportunities to develop their individual and collective agency to direct their learning. 

Equally committed to building the capacity of all teachers to identify and provide for high-ability students, the school supports collaborative professional learning teams, relevant and timely professional development and leadership opportunities. 

Most recently, Tarneit Rise Primary School was identified by the Department of Education and Training for a best practice metropolitan primary case study, highlighting the Victorian High-Ability Program, the Victorian Challenge and Enrichment Series and specialist subjects offered at the school, for inclusion in the High-Ability Toolkit resource available to other schools.

Dr Lawrie Shears Outstanding Global Teaching and Learning

Balwyn High School

Balwyn High School

Balwyn High School prides itself on the provision of local and international learning experiences for students to learn and engage with their global peers, placing emphasis on the actions students can take as citizens of the world. 

A coherent curriculum and approach to global teaching and learning has built students' appreciation of the interdependence of different cultures to one another and developed students' global competency. 

The Model UN Forum is a standout co-curricular activity where students simulate the United Nations Security Council. Students consider what it would be like for a nation-state to deal with conflict and review the implications of decisive action – in the form of peacekeeping, military action, or other uses of power. Students learn how to exercise power responsibly and to consider the needs and interests of those beyond their own borders. 

Balwyn High School prioritises deep connections with their diverse multicultural local community, building global networks through regular community events and culturally rich co-curricular opportunities for students.