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National honour for high performing leader

Magda Pollak’s 48 years of hard work within public education has been recognised with the Public Service Medal.

Magda Pollak

Magda Pollak, who was recognised with an Australia Day Honour for outstanding public service to education in NSW.

As part of the 2019 Australia Day Honours, the leader of the Department of Education’s High Performing Students team, Magda Pollak has been honoured with the Public Service Medal.

Ms Pollak said the award came as a surprise.

“I was absolutely astonished, amazed and honoured,” Ms Pollak said.

The granting of the award highlights Ms Pollak’s involvement in the department’s strategy to increase access for high performing students across the state.

Ms Pollak has been heavily involved in the development of Aurora College, the country’s first virtual high school, which has been helping rural and remote students since 2015. The college broke new barriers in 2018, extending a virtual Opportunity Class to gifted and talented Year 5 students.

While she didn’t expect the award, the veteran educator says the real prize is having an impact on students’ futures.

“The highlight has been being able to positively influence the education of gifted and talented students state-wide,” Ms Pollak said.

“I’m also proud of the fact that we are slowly getting more recognition from Aboriginal communities that there are opportunities for their students.”

Ms Pollak led strategies that have resulted in the number of opportunity classes and selective schools applications from Aboriginal students doubling since 2010. The process involved a four-year study with Western Sydney University to identify opportunities for greater representation of Aboriginal students among those attending opportunity classes and selective high schools.

In her role as the leader of the High Performing Students unit, Ms Pollak oversees the placement programs for the 27,000 applicants hoping each year to get into opportunity classes and selective high schools. This program has also expanded since 2010, with the number of selective high schools across the state growing from 33 to 46.

In the first 19 years of her career Ms Pollak worked as a teacher at Katoomba and Nepean high schools, and has continued to keep students as the focus of her work.

“Early on I was galvanised into action because I noticed the disadvantaged end of the spectrum,” Ms Pollak said.

“I learnt that you really had to get down and do things if you wanted things to change.”

The award citation reads: “Ms Pollak is an exceptional change champion, leader and educator who has made a significant impact to the NSW Department of Education initiatives, with students always at the core of her ethos.”

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