"And the inaugural Professional Practice Awards go to..."

News | "And the inaugural Professional Practice Awards go to..."

Posted 23 November 2017 by Catholic Education in News

A special part of the 2017 Lighting the Way Faith & Learning Awards Evening was the conferral of the Professional Practice Awards. These awards acknowledged the outstanding achievement and efforts of five individual staff members who, in the course of their work and study, have been exemplary in a particular area of educational endeavour.

"An opportunity like tonight clearly demonstrates the immense value and significant contribution made by our very fine women and men to the collective mission of Catholic education and the greater good of this nation," Director of Schools, Peter Turner told those gathered.

"These awards and the citations which complement them reflect the achievements and service of individuals who have been nominated by their peers for professional recognition."

The Professional Practice Awards recognised exceptional performance across each of the following professional practices:

Leading Catholic Life, Education and Mission

Colleen Easton - Principal, St Paul's Catholic Parish Primary School, Albion Park

In a career spanning over forty years in the Diocese of Wollongong, Colleen Easton has consistently displayed a deep commitment, loyalty and devotion to honouring her call as a spiritual, faith and educational leader. Colleen demonstrates a lived, authentic faith, which is evident to students, staff and parents alike as she openly weaves the gospel values into both her personal and professional life.

She reflects on her faith through a devotion to prayer and she constantly models the importance of an active prayer life. Her life is inspired by the Mary MacKillop quote: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it”.

Colleen is an outstanding leader of Catholic Life, Education and Mission and this is evidenced by the very practical and humble ways she engages in her life as a leader. This includes introducing and leading the "Conversations About Catholics" program for Parents of Kindergarten students; supporting the Parish Priest in the implementation of the "Alpha" adult faith formation program at St Paul's; organising and leading Staff Spirituality Days; supporting Parish Preparation days for the sacraments, including sponsoring many adults and children for the sacrament of Confirmation; supporting the Parish in the implementation and running of ‘Messy Church’; and working proactively over many years with the clergy of St Paul’s Albion Park to involve and include school families in the life of the parish.

Leading Teaching and Learning

Judith Tolomeo - Curriculum Co-ordinator, Mount Carmel Catholic College, Varroville

Mrs Judith Tolomeo is an outstanding practitioner at Mount Carmel Catholic College in the area of Learning and Teaching. Over the past four years, Judith has engendered a culture of excellence by firstly modelling exceptional pedagogy resulting in highly significant learning gains for the students and secondly by challenging Middle Leaders and staff to embrace best practice confidently and competently within the classroom.

Judith has designed and implemented a number of successful initiatives, which have impacted significantly on student learning outcomes. These include the structural composition of classes across the curriculum in Stages 4 & 5, the process of differentiation throughout the college and the design and implementation of quality assessment practices in Stages 4, 5 & 6. These critical educational strategies have resulted in a building of capacity across the college and thus in turn have maximised staff and student outcomes. This empowering of staff has had a far-reaching effect on the college community generally.

Judith’s leadership is a creative and cooperative venture, which utilises the talents of all staff. She actively supports the professional learning needs of others and encourages all staff to use their talents for the good of the whole college community. She is an exceptionally hard worker who consistently displays a very sharp attention to detail and her excellent organisational leadership facilitates an effective and efficient operation within the school.  

Developing Self and Others 

Brother Bill Tarrant - Spiritual Director & Facilitator, Catholic Education Office

Br Bill Tarrant FMS has had a profound and significant influence on staff in their ongoing spiritual formation through his facilitation of the core spiritual formation programs offered through our Catholic Education Office. These programs have a duration of three years and are offered to school and office staff. Participant feedback reflects the growth of individuals as well as the depth and richness of the faith experience they encounter in programs with Br Bill. This is due largely to Bill's unique way of breaking open the scriptures in such a relevant and meaningful way.

As well as facilitation of programs, Bill's Spiritual Direction work with Principals is highly valued. Indeed his skills as a trained Spiritual Director and a Counsellor have been used in a variety of situations - his counsel is wise and his confidentiality unquestionable. Br Bill is most generous with his time and gifts that has transformed the lives of so many across our Diocese. He embodies Gospel values and lives in such a way that engenders hope for the present and for the future.

Throughout the past 8 years Bill has met a huge variety of staff where they are; with great dignity, respect and in a non-judgemental way. He does not leave them where he found them; gently challenging, trusting in their goodness, pushing out into the deep. He takes people where they can’t go on their own; walking alongside, constant, faithful and transformational presence. This is what true witness to the person of Jesus Christ really means.

Leading Improvement, Innovation and Change 

Cindy Williams - Pastoral Care Co-ordinator, St John the Evangelist Catholic High School, Nowra

Cindy Williams has been deeply involved in the pastoral care of St John the Evangelist's students as a teacher, Year Co-ordinator, Curriculum Co-ordinator and for the past 2 years, as the school Pastoral Care Co-ordinator. With these years and range of experience in the area of pastoral care to draw on, Cindy has seen the need for change and taken opportunities to initiate several new processes.

She identified three major demands that have been placed on Principals and pastoral teams in recent years: students attendance monitoring, case management and developing learning plans...and got to work on improving all three. Cindy has seen her role as both supporting the Principal, as well as appropriately involving teaching staff, Year Co-ordinators, counsellors, families and admin staff in implementing new processes that address these demands and are efficient and effective but also enable the pastoral care of every student in our school. 

In all three areas of innovation, Cindy has created a collegial environment. She has developed professional relationships across teaching and non-teaching staff to the benefit of streamlining processes and creating a warm, pastoral approach with an amazing energy with all staff focused on getting it done to benefit the students and their families. Whilst these are pastoral initiatives, Cindy always has the focus of student learning achievement and excellence firmly in her mind. More impressive than the policies, processes and procedures implemented by Cindy, is the energetic drive with which she approaches each new challenge: every student, every family, every day. Cindy has developed our culture in an even more positive direction. Without judgment but with “unconditional positive regard” Cindy strives to make each student feel that they are loved as one who is created in the image of God.

Engaging and Working with the Community

Rebecca Coll - School Support Officer, Good Samaritan Catholic Primary School, Fairy Meadow

Rebecca Coll's work as a School Support Officer includes valuable support in the classroom, especially in the integration of a number of refugee students within the school community. In addition to her regular duties, Rebecca offers extended support in response to the identified needs of refugee students and families, thereby alleviating pressure on the school leadership team.

Rebecca has exemplified Christian values and worked tirelessly throughout the Good Samaritan school community developing and maintaining positive partnerships with students, families and carers, the local church and the wider school community through the initiatives, compassion and support she has provided to refugee families.

Rebecca has developed numerous initiatives and provided support such as organising, facilitating and hosted a movie night for two nights during Refugee Week, highlighting the plight and support needed for the resettlement of refugees within a community and raising funds for SCARF; organising and facilitating 'Learn to Swim' lessons at the Continental Pools for refugee families in the local Wollongong area - a valuable initiative that provides opportunity for the development of social and cultural capital and reduces the risk of social isolation; providing English lessons and life-skills tutoring to groups of parents every Wednesday night; and working with St Vincent de Paul Society and SCARF to organise a collection of household items needed to assist with the resettlement of refugees in the Good Samaritan parish, to ensure their rental property was turned into a home. 

Rebecca also organised a Refugee Christmas appeal at Good Samaritan, where all the staff brought in a gift for a child between the ages of 0-14 years that were donated to refugees. Rebecca engaged with local businesses from Thirroul to Warrawong to seek the donation of hamper items, which she delivered on Christmas Eve to refugee families in the wider Wollongong community to help them celebrate their first “Aussie Christmas”.

Lighting the Way Award

Based on the recommendation of the moderating panel, the Director of Schools endorses the most meritorious Professional Practices Award application that demonstrates an outstanding contribution to the growth in faith and improvement in learning of students of the Diocese.

This individual will receives the Lighting the Way Award, the most prestigious award to be announced at the conferring event.

Congratulations to Principal of St Pauls, Albion Park, COLLEEN EASTON - winner of the 2017 Lighting the Way Award!

Read more about Colleen's significant contribution to Catholic education here.

Congratulations From the director

"These are the good news stories in our schools," Peter Turner said on the night, "The stories of staff in Catholic schools who have dedicated their professional working lives to educating the young; who have collaborated with their peers to improve educational outcomes in literacy or numeracy or religious education; who have given an extra effort above and beyond, to bring out the best in a student’s sporting achievement or in the creative and performing arts; who have led the way in making technology a useful and effective learning tool for knowledge and understanding or who have been there to provide a safe and pastoral helping hand for those in need of care and compassion.

"I congratulate all of them - those being recognised here today and those in all our schools."


View more information on CEDoW's Awards and Recognition Program here.

View all stories in News. View All News and Events.