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Victorian teachers acknowledged in Principals' Association of Specialist Schools Awards

On Friday 17 November, 6 Victorian teachers were recognised among the 2023 Principals' Association of Specialist Schools (PASS) Award winners. 

Presented by the Minister for Education Ben Carroll, the awards celebrate exceptional staff expertise in specialist schools, with finalists nominated by peers and colleagues, and winners each receiving $500 towards professional development.

Minister Carroll said "Every Victorian child deserves the best education – and we’re so proud to support our special schools, who deliver the support and education to make sure each student can achieve their goals.”

He continued “I congratulate all the PASS Awards winners and nominees for their outstanding efforts in supporting the education of students with disability. These schools are the backbone of their communities and continue to transform many lives.”

The VIT wishes to congratulate all 2023 award winners, and acknowledges the following Victorian registered teachers who received awards. 

Outstanding Graduate Teacher Award

Two people smile at the camera, standing in front of a media wall at the PASS Awards


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.

Outstanding Specialist Teacher Award

Jenny Annett

Bendigo Special Developmental School (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.

Outstanding Teacher Award

Two people smile at the camera, standing in front of a media wall at the PASS Awards


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.

Outstanding Middle Leader Award

Two people smile at the camera, standing in front of a media wall at the PASS Awards


Meg Ogle-Mannering

Waratah Special Developmental School

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 has been documented in one software system.

Outstanding Assistant Principal Award

Two people smile at the camera, standing in front of a media wall at the PASS Awards


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

Outstanding Principal Award

Two people smile at the camera, standing in front of a media wall at the PASS Awards


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.

Read more about the volunteers and support staff recognised this year on the PASS website.

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