Inspirational Teachers Receive National Excellence in Education Awards

Six of New Zealand’s top teachers spanning early childhood, primary and secondary education received ASG National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) from the Minister of Education, Hon. Chris Hipkins today.

The ASG NEiTA Awards which this year celebrate 25 years at a ceremony in the Great Hall, Parliament Buildings, honour the recipients for their inspiring and innovative contributions to teaching.

NEiTA winners 2020
NEiTA winners 2020 top row Aimee Macaskill, Carl MacIntyre, Catherine Broman, second row Christopher Waugh, Lee Tibble, Renu Sikka

Christopher Waugh, a secondary school teacher from Wanaka, won this year’s ASG NEiTA Innovation Award by turning the power structure in secondary school on its head. His three innovations in education hand over the controls of learning to students, so they experience a sense of control over their destiny. Teachers and the school management happily play supporting roles.

Christopher, who teaches English at Mount Aspiring College in Wanaka in addition to coaching the school’s triathlon team and hosting his own podcast called ‘See Me After Class’, has a host of education innovations to his credit.

He introduced the ‘You Choose’ student course selection scheme, which requires teachers to develop learning programs and present a ‘pitch’ to students. The students then get to pick the course of their choice, sometimes based on who will be teaching the course. This aids the development of strong student-teacher relationships and also lets the teacher know they are doing a great job if they find that their course is popular.

His second classroom innovation is to enable students to present their work on blogs, ushering a transparent means of publishing and sharing classwork. Christopher is currently working on the ‘Unlock Achievement’ project that will replace traditional testing in the school with access to digital credentials that students can unlock at any time on their educational journey. This will allow students to curate their learning, improving student agency, and supporting resilience as it allows them to ‘try again’.

“My students are the centre of everything I do. I believe passionately that giving them power to direct their lives, with the appropriate level of support and guidance, is crucial to their healthy development,” says Christopher.

The other recipients are: Carl McIntyre, Cornerstone Christian School in Palmerston North’s learning support teacher who won the ASG NEiTA Founders’ Award for Leadership; Aimee MacAskill the University of Auckland’s Early Childhood Centres’ general manager; Lee Tibble, a teacher at Auckland’s Royal Oak Intermediate, Renu Sikka, a teacher at Auckland’s Henderson Primary School; and Catherine Broman, acting deputy principal and literacy specialist at David Henry School in Tokoroa.

Carl McIntyre is passionate about supporting students who struggle to succeed in a normal classroom environment. He stands out as a leader on a range of important issues such as learning support and developing tailored support programs for students with learning disabilities and helping them create successful and relevant career pathways. “Carl has changed many lives, he cares about all his students, but what’s best about Carl is that he’s not afraid to be a life changer,” says the parent who nominated him.

He has designed a dyslexic/Irlen screening system for every student who enters Cornerstone, so he can offer those students customised support from the start. “The value of meeting with parents, organising an Irlen screen, encouraging parents to invest into it and then having a student say upon wearing the glasses: ‘This is the first time the words have stood still for me!’ is priceless,” says Carl. He has managed learning support on his own resources for the last five years, fuelled only by the satisfaction of making a difference to students in need of it. Carl has also helped to create the school’s pastoral care model—Life Lab— through which student groups have a teacher (coach) who is responsible for their emotional, spiritual, social, physical and learning needs, ensuring that no student is isolated, instead they are well supported.

“A good or great teacher is someone that is truly dedicated to the growth and development of children in all areas. Not just the daily care routines, but someone that actually takes the time to get to know the children,” says Aimee MacAskill. Her nominee says of Aimee: “She makes you want to do better, and to be more, just because you know that you are worth it.”

“The availability of free information has completely changed the landscape of what a teacher should look like. Too many of us continue to expect our learners to endure our ramblings, rather than ask the most important question that we could possibly ask: what would you like to learn about? This question is incredibly powerful. It completely changes the basis of what education should look like,” says Lee Tibble, who would rather have students being engaged in class rather than complete menial tasks to complete work expected of them. “Lee Tibble exemplifies what every parent and student would hope for in a teacher,” says his nominator.

“Schools that are successful in engaging parents in learning are consistent in their practice and build strong relationships based on mutual trust, respect and a commitment to improving student learning outcomes. It is a two-way street!” says Renu Sikka. “She is an amazing teacher and deserves to be recognised by the community and this prestigious award for her enthusiasm and devotion to the field of education in Aotearoa,” says Renu’s parent nominator.

“Teachers cannot expect children to learn at the same rate, at the same time and with the same methods. Armed with the knowledge of your pupils, work on getting everyone learning at a rate that suits them and working on what you know about them,” says Catherine Broman, who has completed 40 years in the profession. “Catherine is an amazing, dedicated, hardworking teacher who has high expectations in learning and behaviour for all students who enter into her classroom,” says her nominator.

NEiTA logo

ASG NEiTA Chairman Allen Blewitt says the recipients are outstanding educational role models. “I am honoured to have had the opportunity to meet six inspirational teachers and educators every year through the NEiTA process. These teachers are leaders among their colleagues in an education setting, innovators among the teaching profession, and people engaging with others within the community. Congratulations to this year’s winners. I look forward to seeing how they continue to change lives through their work.”

ASG CEO Ross Higgins says a NEiTA nomination is proof that the members of the school community acknowledge the contribution of the teacher and value it. “I congratulate all the NEiTA recipients. They represent dedicated teachers across New Zealand who genuinely care about the educational success and wellbeing of their students. They are education heroes in their own right.”

Since their inception in 1994, the NEiTA Foundation has contributed more than $1 million in professional development grants to more than 1,050 outstanding teachers in Australia and New Zealand.

The national recipients are selected by a panel of four judges comprising President NZ Schools Trustees Association, Lorraine Kerr (MNZM); Principal of John Paul College and Chair of SIEBA Patrick Walsh; NEiTA Foundation Chairman Allen Blewitt and Manager of Policy, Advocacy and Stakeholder Relations at ASG David Michell.

The selection process is rigorous, including a comprehensive nomination outline, a written paper and video presentation by the nominated teacher. Parents, grandparents, secondary student councils, school boards, councils, parent associations, committees of management and community organisations throughout New Zealand nominated the six recipients. The recipients each receive a $5000 professional development grant.

For more information and to view their ASG NEiTA profiles go to:

For more information, images or to arrange interviews please contact:

Penny Hartill – director hPR: 021 721 424,

Editor’s notes:

The Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) is a member-owned organisation, helping to create educational opportunities for children. ASG has been helping families and their children for 45 years. During this time, more than 557,000 children have been enrolled with ASG and more than $3.35 billion in education benefits and scholarship payments returned to members.

ASG offers a range of education savings and investment products, which are designed to provide families with a tax-effective means of meeting future education costs.

The ASG National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) started in 1994 in Australia and 1996 in New Zealand. Since inception, more than 40,000 teachers have been nominated by the community in the two countries. 

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