From the 500 nominations across New Zealand, Whangārei's Manaia View School principal has won two prestigious national awards for her leadership role.
Principal Leanne Otene (Te Rarawa) has received the Outstanding Mentor Award and the NEiTA (National Excellence in Teaching Awards) Founders' Principals Award for Leadership.
The Whangārei principal is one of five award recipients but the only one to receive leadership and mentor awards.
Otene, who has been a principal for 26 years, received a $10,000 professional development grant and a crystal apply trophy in an online ceremony hosted by Associate Minister of Education Jan Tinetti yesterday .
Otene was surprised and "equally shocked" when she heard about the win and said she had the community, board of trustees and her staff to be thankful for.
In awarding the prize to Otene, NEiTA judges convenor Allen Blewitt said she had taken formal mentorship training as well as being a first-time principal mentor for many years.
"It's easy for non-teachers to underestimate the importance of good mentoring. It is one of the key determinants for young teachers staying in the profession; it is also a hallmark of a true professional who gives of their knowledge and experience to enrich the next generation of teachers,'' Blewitt said.
"Leanne's role in the mentorship of principals resulted in invitations to share her knowledge as a keynote speaker to the Adelaide University conference for the More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative (MATSITI) Project, and twice to subsequent Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Trans-Tasman conferences."
Blewitt said the judges recognised that Otene's exemplary leadership shone through her school's Covid response.
"She sought out learnings from educators across the globe, staying alert to trends, including strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of remote learning environments.
"She also regularly shared her plans with regional principals and was part of a nationwide select group of principals brought together to monitor the Government's advice to principals.
"She has recently been elected to the national executive of the NZ Principals' Federation."
Otene became a student during the first national lockdown in March last year when she learnt how to make Live Facebook videos. It was her way of engaging with the students and wider community every day as well as breaking down the 1pm ministers' briefing for the school whānau as part of the Covid-19 response plan.
"In the first view live videos, I was forever apologising. It was really funny,'' she said.
"We did a lot of wellbeing and cultural responsive exercises too, which was very useful, and covered all four aspects of wellbeing – spiritual, body, mental and whānau."
With regards to winning the award, Otene said it recognised how hard the school's staff had been working over the last couple of years, "knowing full well that my colleagues in Auckland have done it so much tougher than we have here, or across NZ for that matter".
It was an honour and it motivated them even more to be deliberate in pushing forward and ensuring that the school continued to grow, said Otene.
"For me, it is to continue growing my leadership and we will, as a senior leadership team next year, look at what can be done next. This award is not an end, it is a recognition that what we have done so far has worked. We want to continue with the good practice.
"I am not suddenly going to disappear, I am staying here and am absolutely committed to my role, to the school and community."
Futurity CEO Ross Higgins said each of these educators has displayed outstanding resilience, passion and creativity.
"These teachers and principals, by their professionalism, enthusiasm and care, continue to shape the lives of countless young New Zealanders. We warmly congratulate each of them and all of their hardworking colleagues," Higgins said.