Awards Night - 2023

The 2023 Winner of the Outstanding Volunteer Award - Peter Gibson, Bendigo SDS.

Peter spends countless hours in his volunteer work fixing bikes to enrich the educational experience for students. He assists staff to offer a well-maintained and accessible bike education program. He dedicates his time and skills, to not only promoting physical activity but also encouraging environmental sustainability and community involvement within the school.

Congratulations, Peter, on a well-deserved acknowledgement of the difference that you make


The Winner of the 2023 Outstanding Education Support Award - Azemine Sheremataj, Warringa Park School

Azemine was chosen as the winner of the outstanding Education Support Award from a large field of applicants.  The panel recognised her significant impact in transforming Warrigal Park School’s work experience program.  Azemine was instrumental in providing inclusive work experience opportunities for Warringa Park School’s students based on student interest and readiness which has led to substantial growth in the students’ employability skills.  Azemine built over 20 partnerships with local employees and demonstrating a passion and skill in educating the community on the capabilities of students.

Congratulations, Azemine


The 2023 Winner of the Outstanding Graduate Teacher Award -  Alex Eastburn, Kalianna School

Alex led the development of a program to immerse all students at Kalianna School in a range of differentiated activities for Science Week. She considered the learning needs of all students across the school, from Foundation to VPC level, enabling a unique opportunity for students to develop a curiosity for the world of science in a safe environment. Alex also used this program to instil the values of teamwork and collaboration in her students.  Alex now proposes to establish a Kalianna Science Club in 2024. Alex also hopes to share her knowledge from her Science Week activities to the wider Specialist School community.


The 2023 Winner of the Outstanding Specialist Teacher Award - Jenny Annett, Bendigo SDS

The benefits of Jenny’s program for students at Bendigo SDS is highly evident and her ability to adapt curriculum based on her own experience and the expertise of the therapy team really stood out for the panel. Her ability to develop students’ technical skills in the pool while also building resilience and wellbeing ensures her students thrive and develop skills that will be of benefit well beyond the classroom.

The impact Jenny has had on other educators is a testament to her work and her mentoring of others will have an ongoing impact on specialist education. We are delighted to present Jenny with the 2023 PASS award for Outstanding Specialist Teacher


The 2023 Winner of the Outstanding Allied Health Award - Samsam Hersi, Waratah SDS

Samsam has worked with a wide range of families who have been reluctant to engage with services due to being overwhelmed or distrusting. She has quietly developed relationships with vulnerable families, helping them to access services and supports which ultimately benefit both the adult and children. Samsam’s knowledge of systems, processes, organisations and her own quiet determination in advocating and empowering families has been the key to her success in her role and being awarded the most outstanding allied health professional


The 2023 Winner of the Outstanding Team Award - Glenallen School

The Victorian Pathways Certificate (VPC) implemented at Glenallen School supports students and their families to make informed choices in regard to post school options.  This can be a particularly challenging experience.  The team at Glenallen, comprising Annmaree Lalor, Chika Hogan, Daniel DeGraaf, Deb Morant, Gill Greenwood, Gillian Bryan, Robyn Miller, Stef Young and Timothy Ruff have freely shared their knowledge in communities of practice and public forums to support other schools with this process.  Well Done Glenallen School!


The 2023 Winner of the Outstanding Teacher Award - Natalie Goudie Troy

Nat has not only developed an Art program incorporating literacy and indigenous perspectives to engage and extend her students, but she has also implemented a ‘Home to School’ transition program and playgroup. She has created a safe and inclusive environment for vulnerable families of students with special needs to seek advice, communicate their needs, and connect with other families and community members. One of Nat's greatest strengths lies in her ability to build strong relationships with families. Nat often travels large distances to visit children in their homes and preschool settings. In rural areas where specialist schools are often the first point of support for families, she has made strong professional connections to external agencies, facilitating and supporting meetings with families, preschools, and service providers, allowing the school to develop tailored support programs for students as they start their school career.  Nat's dedication to creating a safe and supportive environment for families has allowed them to feel comfortable and empowered to make informed choices about their child's education. This level of support and connection to school and community embodies what is best about specialist education in Victoria. Nat is a very worthy winner of this award. Congratulations


The 2023 Winner - Outstanding Middle Leader Award - Meg Ogle-Mannering, Waratah SDS

 Meg has used her role as a Leading Teacher to work with a mainstream software provider to create a data tracking tool that can track student progress over time. The software program is sensitive to the small, incremental developments that students who have severe intellectual disabilities make, and their learning over several years have been documented in one software system.

Congratulations Meg.\


The 2023 Winner - Outstanding Assistant Principal Award - Caitriona Toland, Warringa Park School

Caitriona led the implementation of Respectful Relationships at Warringa Park as a lead school. This included the integration of Personal and Social Capabilities across curriculum areas and programs. It is a whole school approach that is embedded and has strong collaboration from stakeholders. Caitriona led the development of differentiated and accessible resources for all students as well as differentiated professional learning for teachers at their point of need resulting in building teacher capacity. The data indicates positive response to intervention. As a result, three communities of practice have been established and the work has been shared at a network, region, and state level



The 2023 Winner - Outstanding Principal Award - Libby Gatgens, Nelson Park School

Libby Gatgens is a visionary leader with an unwavering commitment to active community involvement which Is exemplified by her outreach to teachers and principals from across the state. This outreach has resulted in increased community support and participation in our educational initiatives and events, reinforcing our organization's bonds with the broader community. During her three-year tenure as Executive Chair of the Barwon North Central Network, Libby facilitated exceptional professional development opportunities for staff and offered mentorship to fellow principals, both within and outside the region. Libby's advocacy has left a lasting mark on local educational policies, particularly in the realm of special education, enrolment, and transportation for Regional Specialist Schools.


Her dedication to shaping these policies has contributed significantly to the improvement of educational services and opportunities for students in our region.


Libby is committed to creating optimal learning environments for all students and has been instrumental in designing purpose-built and modernised new buildings on their main school campus that has redefined education at Nelson Park School.

With a passionate belief in the power of innovative spaces to inspire students and teachers alike, she tirelessly collaborated with architects and educators to shape these learning environments. Drawing from her extensive experience and insights in Special Education, Libby ensured that each classroom would be a versatile haven for active learning, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, flexible furniture arrangements, and abundant natural light. 


Libby has played a pivotal role in inviting educators from across the Network and Region to explore the school’s new facilities, fostering stronger connections between our communities and schools. Her dedicated efforts encourage and facilitate dialogue and collaboration, with the aim of aligning our resources and expertise with educational goals, ultimately benefiting all students.


Congratulations, Libby. You are indeed a worthy recipient as on outstanding specialist school principal!


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