Rugby league’s the winner as teacher takes footy gong

Kiama Public School Assistant Principal and School Sports Coordinator Sheree Payne has won the NRL’s 2021 Teacher of the Year award.

18 October 2021
Charlotte, Eadie and Jimmi with Lachlan and Sheree Payne
Image: Charlotte, Eadie and Jimmi with Lachlan and Sheree Payne


Sheree Payne grew up in her very own version of the Sims household.

Not the video game family – but the rugby league one from the NSW south coast that spawned three NRL stars and a women’s international.

And just like Korbin, Ashton, Tariq and Ruan, the Kiama Public School Assistant Principal has had a long and distinguished involvement with the code.

It’s one that has just been formally recognised too, Sheree taking out the NRL’s 2021 Teacher of the Year award.

The School Sports Coordinator at Kiama Public, Sheree has spent the best part of a decade working tirelessly with sports but with a particular passion for the 13-person game.

“I have four brothers, so rugby league has always been part of my life,” she said.

“The Sims actually don’t live too far away from me, and Ashton actually played a lot of football with my youngest brother.

“So, I probably didn’t have much choice to choose anything but rugby league but I got into it more when my girls started to play.”

From inter-school and gala days, through to the integration of the NRL’s educational programs in the classroom, Sheree passionately brings different aspects of the game together into the school curriculum.

Sheree has built a range of relationships across the code, including close ties with the St George Illawarra Dragons, and was acknowledged for promoting the sport to girls as much as boys.

She loves being part of what appears to be a change of mindset towards women’s sport with more and more professional opportunities becoming available.

“Just the way things are moving forward and moving with the times,” she said.

“To see the talent coming through and the pathway to elite sport (for girls) is just amazing.”

Shocked and grateful for the recognition she may be, but Sheree doesn’t shy away from the extra workload involved on top of her assistant principal and teaching duties.

“My boss asked whether I wanted to start hand that responsibility over – but I just love it.

“Yes, there’s a lot of work but to be able to give those kids that experience and at the end of a gala day to see the looks on the kids’ faces - it’s so worth it.”

Sheree becomes the first NSW Public School recipient of the award which was first handed out in 2019.

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