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Media Release

Transforming lives: 12 inspirational educators recognised in the inaugural Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards

CBA announces recipients of 2017 Teaching Awards

Commonwealth Bank, in partnership with Schools Plus, recognises 12 outstanding teachers and school leaders.

What’s the news?

A former nationally ranked hammer thrower and a YouTube sensation are among the 12 fantastic educators recognised by the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards announced in Sydney today.

What are the Teaching Awards?

The Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards recognise and reward great teachers and principals – especially those working in challenging and socially-diverse communities. Launched in October 2016, the initiative is run in partnership with not-for-profit Schools Plus. By sharing the remarkable stories of its recipients and placing their achievements in the spotlight, the awards aim to inspire other teachers and promote excellent practice in schools across Australia.

How many teachers applied for the awards?

443 teachers and school leaders from around the country applied for the awards, which were open to education professionals from all sectors of the Australian schools system: government, Catholic and independent. 

Who are the 12 recipients?

The 2017 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Award recipients are: 

  • Sharyn Angel, Deputy Principal, Shailer Park State High School, Qld
  • Chad Bliss, Principal, Canobolas Rural Technology High School, NSW
  • Shanti Clements, Principal, Beauty Point Public School, NSW
  • Leah Crockford, Principal, Berry Springs Primary School, NT
  • Michael Devine, Principal, Western Port Secondary College, Vic
  • Wilbur (Charlie) Klein, Teaching Principal, Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School, WA
  • Sarah Mathews, Master Teacher, Brisbane Bayside State College, Qld
  • Lesley Mills, Principal, Tabulam Public School, NSW
  • Christine Roberts-Yates, Assistant Principal, Murray Bridge High School – Disability Unit, SA
  • Craig Skinner, Principal, Calista Primary School, WA
  • Belinda Wall, Principal, Woonona High School, NSW
  • Eddie Woo, Head Maths Teacher, Cherrybrook Technology High School, NSW

These outstanding educators represent a broad cross-section of Australia. They include: 

  • A former nationally ranked hammer thrower, now deputy principal, from Brisbane, who’s transformed her students’ literacy performance in just two years
  •  A Sydney maths teacher who also happens to be a YouTube sensation
  • A long-serving educator from the Kimberley region of WA, who took up a job as principal of a disadvantaged primary school in suburban Perth in 2013 and has had a major impact since – not just on the school, but in the broader community.

You can read about each of the recipients and the great work they are doing here.


What have they won?

Each of the recipients will be awarded a $45,000 fellowship, which covers:

  • $10,000 for the recipient’s professional development;
  • $5,000 for participation in a 12-month fellowship program that includes a study tour to Singapore; and, 
  • $30,000 to fund a project in their school to improve student achievement and wellbeing.

How were they chosen?

The 12 recipients were selected by a panel comprised of some of Australia’s most respected business and education leaders.

All 443 applications were assessed against five criteria:

  • Transforming learning outcomes
  • Collaborating and sharing knowledge
  • Engaging with the community
  • Applying technology in teaching
  • Attributes of a Teaching Fellow

The full selection guidelines can be found here.

What does this have to do with Commonwealth Bank?

Commonwealth Bank believes great teachers and school leaders help children reach their potential. By celebrating the achievements of great teachers and school leaders, Commonwealth Bank hopes to elevate the teaching profession and inspire Australian educators.  

The awards form part of Commonwealth Bank’s 25-year commitment to improving Australian education outcomes. Partnering with Schools Plus is integral to this commitment – through these awards, Commonwealth Bank can help Schools Plus achieve its mission of addressing the impact of disadvantage in education. Read more about Commonwealth Bank’s commitment to Australian education here.

What have people said?

Ian Narev, Chief Executive Officer, Commonwealth Bank, said: “Great teachers inspire students, families and communities. We’re delighted to help recognise the 12 recipients of this year’s Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards. Most importantly, we’re committed to helping them increase the impact of their exceptional work.”

Rosemary Conn, Chief Executive Officer, Schools Plus, said: “Every day, in schools across Australia, teachers and principals are working hard to change their students’ lives. These 12 outstanding educators go to inspiring lengths to provide the sort of teaching that opens up new possibilities for their students, no matter their backgrounds. These awards show our appreciation for the work they do and shine a light on the exceptional teaching that makes the greatest difference to students and the community.”

So where to from here?

The award recipients begin a 12-month Teaching Fellowship to develop and share their skills and leadership. They’ll pursue their own choice of individual professional development, receive funding to develop a significant project for their schools and, in July, they’ll visit Singapore as a group to observe its high-performing education system. The inaugural Fellows are the trailblazers for building a national community of education change-makers who will inspire and influence practice in classrooms across the country.


For further information on the recipients, interview opportunities and images, please contact:

Commonwealth Bank Media

02 9118 6819 | 


About Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards

The Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards are run in partnership with Schools Plus, a not-for-profit organisation established in 2013 to increase philanthropy for the schools that most need support. Every year, the awards will recognise and reward 12 teachers across Australia with a $45,000 Teaching Fellowship. The majority of the recipients will be teachers or school leaders working in schools in disadvantaged communities. 

For more information on the Teaching Awards, or to find out when the nomination period opens, visit  

About Opportunity Initiatives 

As one of Australia’s largest companies, Commonwealth Bank is committed to making a positive contribution to our customers, communities and the economies in which we operate. Opportunity Initiatives is our corporate responsibility plan to drive positive, lasting change through education, innovation and good business practices. Visit us at to find out more.

About Schools Plus

Schools Plus is a national charity that delivers high-impact philanthropic support for schools in disadvantaged communities to give students the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential. It was established in 2013, bringing to life a recommendation in the 2011 Review of Funding for Schooling (Gonski Review). More than 4,600 schools across Australia are eligible for tax-deductible donations through Schools Plus.