A husband and wife team are among 91 recipients of the NSW Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence in Education, for outstanding achievement and service to public education.
In the interests of marital harmony it’s probably just as well that Jacqui and Neil Thompson last night received identical awards.
The Dubbo College teachers were honoured with a Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for their work in ‘closing the gap’ for Aboriginal students and developing genuine partnerships with the Aboriginal community.
It was only when they were both notified they were winners that the couple realised the danger in both being nominated.
“Jacqui asked me what would have happened if I hadn’t won as well,” Neil laughs, “but I just knew the stars would align.”
The couple, who met in 2002 at a mental health conference, are each other’s biggest fans.
Jacqui describes Neil, as the “most amazing teacher I’ve ever seen”, while Neil says his wife is “hard to beat for her dedication and passion – I learn from her and try to be better because of her”.
Neil, deputy principal at Dubbo College Delroy Campus, received the award for his work in developing a strategic plan to lift achievement and expectations among Aboriginal students.
As part of the process he undertook a 10-week audit of the school that involved interviews with staff, students and the community to see where the school could improve and better engage with the community. Aboriginal students account for more than 50 per cent of enrolments at Delroy Campus.
When Jacqui took up the position of deputy principal at Dubbo College South Campus there was no Aboriginal education plan, despite Aboriginal students comprising more than one-third of enrolments.
She has since created a culture of tolerance and helped foster a community of belonging among the school population. As part of this work, Jacqui has built genuine partnerships with the Aboriginal and wider community, resulting in the establishment of an annual Reconciliation Walk through the city.
The Thompsons were among 91 individuals and schools from across NSW who were last night acknowledged for their outstanding achievement and service to public education at the Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence.
The Department of Education Secretary, Mark Scott, said the range of achievement within public schools reflected in the awards was a source of great optimism for the future of the system.
“Whether it is students’ academic excellence preparing them for jobs of the future, teachers’ innovation in guiding and supporting them, support staff or whole-school and community efforts helping our schools be their very best – everyone is helping to lay solid foundations for our future society,” Mr Scott said.
The awards recognise those who have made major contributions as role models to their peers, their schools and school communities, celebrating excellence within the State’s public education system.
The winners, from across NSW, were honoured in the following categories:
- Minister’s Award for Excellence in Student Achievement
- Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
- Secretary’s Award for Excellent Service
- Secretary’s Award for an Outstanding School Initiative
- Secretary’s School Achievement Award
- Public School Parent of the Year
The School Achievement Award winners were: Auburn North Public School, Aurora College, Dapto Public School, Lansvale Public School, La Perouse Public School and Sir Joseph Banks High School
The awards administered by the Public Education Foundation were first presented in 1989 and are sponsored by the Institute of Public Administration NSW.