School closing on NZ's most inspiring teacher

By Vaughan Elder

Winner of this year's most inspiring teacher award Jan Stevens celebrates with pupils from the soon-to-be-closed Rotary Park School. Photo / Peter McIntosh
Winner of this year's most inspiring teacher award Jan Stevens celebrates with pupils from the soon-to-be-closed Rotary Park School. Photo / Peter McIntosh

The Dunedin teacher awarded New Zealand's most inspiring teacher will be back in the job market next year, with her school closing at the end of this year.

Jan Stevens won this year's award after a five-week search run by Warehouse Stationery to find inspirational early-childhood, primary and secondary teachers.

She also won $5000 to spend on a holiday and $1000 worth of stationery for the school.

Mrs Stevens, who has taught at Rotary Park School for 17 out of the 25 years she has been a teacher, said the winning the award came out of the blue. She has been acting principal at the school since principal Carmel Casey went on leave earlier this year.

"It's totally unexpected. I didn't know that people had entered me into the competition, so I was totally blown away by it."

Receiving the award just before the school closed would give everyone a "buzz" for the last few months.

"It gives us something to celebrate, and that should just carry us right through to the end of the year, so we finish on a positive note," she said.

Asked why she believed she was chosen from the almost 7300 teachers nominated, she said she was not one to "skite", but that she always tried to be "creative" in the way she taught.

"It's the children that inspire me to keep going and improving my efforts and doing my very best," she said.

She would use the $1000 worth of stationery prize to buy supplies for the pupils' "memory books", which they made at the end of each year.

"I will be able to buy lots of wonderful resources for the children to make fantastic memory books."

The award came as she faces an uncertain future, with Mrs Stevens out of work when the school closes, and she said she would be applying for teaching jobs next year.

Dannie Hawkins, the father of one of her pupils, said he decided to nominate Mrs Stevens because of the "enthusiasm that I see in my son each day after school".

Mrs Stevens was "very dedicated" as a teacher and was at the school preparing materials for class "morning, noon and night", Mr Hawkins said.

This had resulted in success at the Otago Daily Times Extra! social studies quiz, the Otago Art Society Youth Award and other competitions, he said.

Pupil Jakob Chirnside, 11, said Mrs Stevens deserved to win the award because she inspired her class to do "great work" and made learning fun.

- Otago Daily Times

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