2021 Awards Night



The Winner of the Award for Outstanding Education Support staff member is  Meena Krishnaswamy, Melton Specialist School


Meena has been an exceptional role model for all staff across the school in particular with her ability to follow the classroom program and implementation of Structured TEACCH. Even with the challenges of remote learning Meena was able to connect with staff members and raise awareness about the importance of self-care and mental health through her online meditation and yoga sessions. Meena volunteered to run these sessions as part of a focus on staff wellbeing. With her infectious smile and calm demeanour Meena’s enthusiasm and willingness to do her best has proven influential.


She has demonstrated her ability to work across many different areas, levels and abilities whilst continuing to demonstrate outstanding practice within the programs she is implementing. Meena’s calm and caring nature has allowed her to work with some of the more challenging students and her approach to attending to their needs never waivers


The winner of the Most Outstanding Graduate Teacher Award is Ranelle McNamara, Hamlyn Views School

Ranelle commenced as a graduate teacher in 2020 at Hamlyn Views. She wanted to teach in a specialist setting as she had developed a passion for working with students with a disability.


Ranelle has been proactive in seeking coaching and feedback from both her leading teacher and speech pathologist. She was also given the role of Assistant PLC leader and used her voice and leadership role to advocate and support the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, SWPBS and AAC across the school.


The use of these evidence-based practices by Ranelle increased engagement and improved learning outcomes for students. This is shown through reduced Chronicle behaviour reports and increased student competency.



The winner of the Most Outstanding Specialist Teacher Award is Debbie Rofe.

Debbie played a pivotal role in the establishment of the new Diamond Valley SDS, Whittlesea campus.

Through the use of highly developed interpersonal skills, Deb was able to forge close relationships within the local Whittlesea community. Deb worked with local community members to educate and support them to positively interact with the students enhancing the students’ experiences within the community.

Her endeavours have culminated in the Diamond Valley SDS campus being a well established and accepted part of the Whittlesea community whose programs are greatly enriched by the support of a variety of community organisations and members.


The winner of the Most Outstanding Allied Health Award is Daniel Tynan, Nepean Specialist School

Daniel has created a music therapy model that is integral to the wellbeing structure at Nepean and supports student needs in the context of wellbeing and positive mental health strategies.

At the beginning of this journey, Daniel sought professional learning with a designer of accessible music technology at Monash University and immersed himself in AAC Proficiency which ensures that every voice is heard and has led to increased access to music technology for students with physical and complex communication needs. 

Daniel has created multiple opportunities for students to engage in wellbeing activities using music therapy for self-expression, problem solving, resilience and social skills.  Daniel’s contribution to specialist education extends into the community by sharing his knowledge and expertise with music therapy students.

He has presented to the Australian Music Therapy Association National Conference and in 2020 was selected to participate in the Global Leaders Program, as one of sixty music leaders from around the world, focusing on exploring the value of music as a tool in community development and social inclusion.


The winner of the Most Outstanding Team Award is Waratah SDS

The student wellbeing work that the team at Waratah have implemented has had a significant impact. The use of data, evidence and case study examples allowed the team to demonstrate the progress over the past two years in their journey towards embedding a consistent school wide approach to sensory and emotional regulation.


An innovative approach to school wide student wellbeing was established through use of Zones of Regulation. This reflected the highly collaborative and effective nature of the work implemented by this multidisciplinary team, drawing effectively on the diversity of skills within to ensure the success of the project.


The team clearly assessed and understood the learning needs of the students, staff and families at the school and tracked data to ensure the  approach was having an impact.  


The PASS Awards Judging Panel acknowledge the importance and impact of this work in student wellbeing and highlight the significance of this level of best practice as wellbeing becomes a stronger feature in the new Framework for Improving Student Outcomes.


The winner of the Most Outstanding Primary Teacher Award is Claire Thomson, Hamlyn Views School

Claire modelled and facilitated the Team Teach approach throughout the school in order to provide ongoing professional learning in de-escalation strategies, highlighting student positive behaviour and enlisting Team Teach trainers to provide whole school training that Claire supports as a trained facilitator.

Claire’s work has resulted in a substantial reduction of the frequency of significant students behaviours of concern, coupled with staff reporting a stronger sense of preparedness and capability in the management of these situations to always focus on prevention and de-escalation, and follow positive behaviour and safety plans to ensure the safety of all students and staff.


The winner of the Most Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award is Karina Smith, Kalianna School

Karina has a specific interest and passion in supporting first nation students and students that have English as a Second Language. Using this passion as a driver, Karina has supported the whole school implementation of Koorie Education at Kaliana School.

She has built staff knowledge and skills in delivering the curriculum through professional learning, coaching and the development of an internal website ‘The Knowledge Ground’ which provides teaching resources that are both aligned with the Victorian Curriculum but are also engaging to use for both staff and students. To support the implementation of the curriculum, Karina has also introduced ‘Yarning Circles’ and whole school special events among many other things and her own Indigenous classroom environment is an exemplar to others.

Karina has worked closely with school staff, the local community and the DET Koorie Education Support Officer who have praised her dedication to the implementation of Koorie Education across the school. Karina has been instrumental in embedding the first nations cross-curriculum and has been asked to assist other schools in their implementation projects on the same topic.

As an outcome of this initiative, Kaliana students proudly wear their indigenous shirts, the school has seen greater family connection with the reengagement of their Koorie community and an increase in attendance where students and families feel a sense of pride, resulting in improved student outcomes.


The winner of the Most Outstanding Leading Teacher/Learning Specialist Award goes to Katharine Ash, Eastern Ranges School

Kath has Improved student outcomes for all at Eastern Ranges through building best practice across the school.  Kath has had a lead role on the curriculum and leadership team at Eastern Ranges.

She has been instrumental in the development of observation practices and the development of work samples.  The school now has a suit of data tools specific to the Eastern Ranges Pedagogical model. 

She has worked on observation and feedback in building capacity across the school and supporting Eastern Ranges to be a Centre of Excellence in ASD. It has also provided a platform for the schools Outreach and In reach programs- supporting their mainstream school settings.

The work samples developed by Kath are used across the school and will be integrated into VCAA resources for special school settings.


The winner of the Most Outstanding Principal Award goes to Warren Tofts from Coburg SDS.

Warren has transformed Coburg SDS through his dynamic leadership style and vision, supporting the alignment of school programs to provide high quality, evidence based teaching and learning. He has supported and inspired staff to further develop and strengthen existing structures, such as the Child Centred Learning transdisciplinary framework, School Wide Positive Behaviour Support, and in working towards becoming a Communication Accessible School. Collectively, these efforts have led to a climate of continuous improvement and lifelong learning for both students and staff.

Warren’s commitment to sharing his knowledge and expertise across a wider network is evidenced by staff from other schools observing the onsite classroom practice, at Coburg SDS, staff presentations at regional and state-wide conferences and their outreach work which is widely recognised. Warren’s participation on the Network Executive and co-facilitation of the Principal Community of Practice has raised the profile of special education across the Hume Moreland Networks and Coburg SDS has been asked to be a Link School for PLCs.





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