Magic Weaver Awards

In the words of the great educator, Sir John Jones: “Children may forget what we made them think, but they’ll never forget how we made them feel.” Sir John inspires us to weave the magic that nurtures learners for life.



The Magic Weaver Awards were initiated in 2016 to recognise and celebrate excellence. 

Presented on Friday, 2 December at a prestigious event at the Langham Hotel in Auckland, we were captivated by the citations of truly great work. We appreciated the exclusive support of Qantas to create this memorable event.

There are eight award categories:

  • Outstanding & Inspirational Leadership Award
  • Outstanding Contribution to the School Award
  • Learning to Learn Award
  • Quality Teaching Award
  • Innovation Award
  • Collaboration Award
  • Office Administrator’s Award
  • Students’ Choice Award

Our team of judges had a hugely challenging task. They spent countless hours reviewing hundreds of nominations from staff, parents and students. Some nominations were pages long.  Many factors were taken into consideration including:

  • size of campus
  • age of students
  • nominee’s role
  • how they came into contact with students – for instance, whether they taught students face to face or by video conference
  • local events that may have had an impact.

The high calibre of finalists meant that at times the judges struggled to decide on a winner. This is testament to the quality of teaching and support staff at Westmount Education.

We are very conscious that teachers may not like to be singled out for excellence. We know that recipients win awards on behalf of those around them – at their campuses, in their learning areas, classes, schools, teams and professional learning groups.

The finalists share common traits:

  • They go the extra mile and bring learning to life. 
  • They are passionate about their students and their learning. 
  • They listen, explore, experiment and work hard to be the best they can be. 
  • They inspire and are role models.
  • They build life-long learners who have enquiring minds and are work ready and future proof. 
  • They are patient and sensitive and make learning meaningful. 

And so to the awards ….

Outstanding & Inspirational Leadership Award


Winner: Jim Seumanu, Campus Principal of Manawatu & Wellington campuses

Jim is a brilliant team leader who excels in building relationships and creating positive culture. He is a Magic Weaver par excellence, recognised as such by students, parents and staff.

“He goes above and beyond to ensure that students have opportunities to develop to their full potential.”

“He gives students of all ages the confidence to be the best they can be.”

“I am inspired to do difficult things because he ate that big spider in Cambodia!”

A disruptor of norms, Jim asks great questions about the way that we ‘do school’ and ensures that staff, students and families are aware of the reasons why we do things the way that we do.

An expert in developing, encouraging and embedding positive culture, his energy and dialogue have influenced whole-school conversation and development.

Finalist: Emma Leyland, Campus Principal of Northland Campus

Emma joined Westmount in January 2016. She made an immediate impact, helping lead the implementation of individualised learning programmes for students who needed to be boosted for their NCEA achievement. She also built a positive culture, filling teaching gaps with great teachers and providing a seamless educational transition for the students. 

Emma oversaw the opening and development of the new Learning Centre, establishing a harmonious, positive and productive learning culture. 

She has been a huge support to the English Department, working with students and new staff at an individual level to ensure quality teaching and learning is happening.  She has made a great start to her Westmount career and shown outstanding leadership that has been recognised by students, staff and community. 

Outstanding Contribution to the School Award

Winner: Den Pinder, Acting Campus Principal of Kaipara Campus

A former school principal, Den has served our community at Kaipara for around eight years, teaching in the middle school area. He has been acting Campus Principal a number of times and is a highly visible team player.

Den has offered so much to the school – examples of this include coordinating kapa haka, music, prizegivings, and amazing learning experiences. He has a real understanding of how to educate our students and build great relationships.  He even turned the words of our school ethos into a song which is sung at assemblies and prizegivings.

Den and his wife Marg really are a package deal – team teaching, team planning, providing crackers and cheese for morning tea and collaboratively running many trips and events. They retire at the end of 2016, after outstanding careers in education.  We wish them the very best. 



Finalist: Andrew Mackenzie, Science and PE teacher and 2IC at Wellington Campus 

Andrew puts his can-do attitude into practice every day. He is a teacher who goes the extra mile; a colleague who supports wherever needed.

His work is excellent. He ensures that all aspects of campus life can move forward, and provides a listening ear for staff, students and parents whenever there is an opportunity or need.

The contribution he has made to student progress in all areas is exemplary as both teacher and school leader.

“An all-round legend; you can always rely on him.”

“Magic Weaver right here.”

“He gives up his own time to provide personal tutorials.”


Learning to Learn Award

Winner: Rachelle Doura, English teacher at Upper South Campus 

The Learning to Learn Award is for a member of staff that identifies and develops students within the Learning to Learn framework, encouraging them to take responsibility as Self-Directed Learners. Student comments are a powerful indicator of how this happens.

“Mrs Doura is not just a teacher. She is an inspirer, motivator and helper, spreading her enthusiasm through the learning centre and classrooms.”

“She makes us all feel like we want to learn.”

“I am so pleased that I have been given the privilege of being one of her students.”

Rachelle’s seamless Magic Weaving is selflessly given to students in all environments - from Learning Centre to classroom and into digital/online spaces. She is an outstanding teacher, weaving her own personal magic as part of the development of the Learning to Learn framework.

Finalist: Elizabeth Whiterod, English Teacher at Manawatu Campus

Elizabeth is an outside-of-the-box thinker. When observing how she approaches her own and others’ learning there is no ‘learning box’. Each learner is treated individually and opportunities for progress are identified for them as part of their learning experiences on campus or online.

As a learner, you would want her as your guide. She is a great advocate and pushes boundaries to ensure that opportunities to succeed are given and are within reach of each individual.

In her role as a member of the Curriculum Leadership Team for English, she has encouraged positive dialogue to challenge learning norms and provided a forum for discussion around learning potential in English for Year 9-10 and in the Senior years.


Quality Teaching Award

Winner: Amanda McMillan, English teacher at Kaipara Campus

Amanda is a beginning teacher and has been with Westmount since the start of 2016. She has gained a huge following of very happy, well-educated and inspired students. She works tirelessly to create lessons that students enjoy, and gives fantastic feedback. She builds outstanding learning relationships and always goes the extra mile to ensure students are supported.

“She is so amazing and dedicated to us students. She puts all her time for us, stays up most of the night answering feedback, and gives us her lunchtimes and morning teas.”

“She is so positive and happy and believes that we are awesome and deserve the most time she can offer. She always does everything she can to make our work the best!

“She has made such a difference in all of our marks in English. She puts everything into us, believes in us 100% and she deserves this prize..”

Finalist: Kylie O’Brien, Junior Lead Teacher at South Campus

Kylie’s lessons are always engaging, exciting, and creative. Students love being in her class. From ukulele orchestras, to speeches, and adventures such as mountain biking, her lessons are impeccably planned and brilliantly executed.

She also works hard to grow the other junior teachers across the South Campus cluster.

Kylie’s organisational energy and drive, as exhibited in her teaching, are a huge asset to Westmount. She is a shining example of excellence. 

“Since Mrs O came to our school, I have had a boost in my Maths, writing and spelling. If we were doing a boring subject like Maths, she makes it exciting. She organised modern furniture for our class that is really neat. She makes us all work together and we get on much better. She is a great magic weaver.”


Innovation Award

Winner: Matthew Morrison, Campus Principal at South Campus

South Campus is a cluster of three sites – Invercargill, Dunedin and Timaru. To ensure students are offered the best possible learning, there is a live-wall set up that connects the three sites. This use of technology, initiated under Matt’s tenure, is pioneering and has been recognised internationally. 

Matt also introduced the ‘Magic Weaver Awards’ at South Campus as a culture-building and respect initiative. It has been facilitated through the use of technology. Matt has a clear vision for using innovative practices to push boundaries and extend learning. Students also love Mr Morrison.

“Mr Morrison is our overall campus ‘go to’. Any question or concerns, Mr Morrison can help with everything. He does not give answers but gets us out of the holes we dig to seek and find our answers. He weaves his magic by encouraging us to set SMART goals, aim high and achieve high. When any person is struggling, he seems to find an encouraging word, even though he may not know what is wrong. His ability to pick what someone feels like is a strong point of his magic.”

Finalist: Murray Hamilton, Curriculum Leader for Mathematics at Auckland Campus

Murray is very forward thinking in his educational practice. He was an early adopter of Moodle and has been instrumental in using it effectively to support student learning. Murray has also been an effective VC teacher, using this technology in an innovative way. 

Maths is a subject that lends itself to the use of technology and innovative practice, and Murray is constantly trialling and implementing new ways to engage students and improve learning. 

“Mr Hamilton has been essential to us passing our Maths internals and externals this year. He took us on at the start of Term 3 after our previous teacher had to leave. We had been behind in our work and completely lost, after a few lessons with Mr Hamilton we were getting back on track. Mr Hamilton has been very helpful by offering extra tuition every week, through the use of technology. Without Mr Hamilton's dedication to my learning I would be lost.  Thank you for your work in using innovative learning techniques.”

Collaboration Award

Winner: Sonja Schutte, Learning Centre Supervisor at East Coast Campus

Sonja is one of those people who, no matter what the situation, can find ways to encourage and adds value. As a teacher she takes on the role of learning coach for each student. She adds challenge along with encouragement and ensures that resources are in place to facilitate students in their journey as self-directed learners.

As a colleague she shares her coaching expertise with others, influencing professional conversation and adding value. She does this in an unassuming and open-to-learn way, looking for opportunities to grow her own capacity in ways that might benefit students.

Finalist: Anindita Goswami, Curriculum Leader Science and National NCEA Coordinator based at Auckland Campus

Anindita is head of department for Science and she teaches her subject with passion every day. She is also the NZQA coordinator at Auckland Campus and always there to help any student at any time.

Whether it is about her subject, another subject, teacher issues, marks and grade issues, and she is always a means of support for any student in a quandary.

In both of her roles, Anindita proves herself regularly to be a master collaborator and true team player.

"Mrs Goswami is the world's kindest, happiest, bubbliest, energetic, loveliest natured teacher that there has ever been.”


Office Administrator Award

Winner: Rachelle Davies, Office Administrator at Kaipara Campus 

Rachelle, or “Ra” as she is affectionately known, meets any request politely, professionally, efficiently and punctually.  Ra knows the students very well and can track them down if you need them. She is the glue that holds the staff together.  The Kaipara Campus runs like clockwork – largely down to the efforts of Ra. 

This year has been a particularly tough year for Kaipara, and Ra has always gone the extra mile to ensure the right thing is done. An example of this is the commemorative booklet created after the fatal accident at Queen’s Birthday Weekend.  Tragic events such as this bring people together – from around the world, and someone needed to keep their finger on the pulse – and this was Ra. 

Finalist: Jodi McLean, Office Administrator at Tasman Campus

It is often said that the success of an organisation hinges not on those who are leaders and figureheads but on the people who support them. When great support is in place, excellence can grow. Jodi is an amazing supporter of campus life and an incredible organiser who looks out for the needs of other people and reaches out to meet those needs in whichever way she can.


Students’ Choice Award

Finalist: Selwyn Bennett, Learning Centre Manager at Manawatu Campus

Selwyn came to our campus at the beginning of the year and fitted in quickly.

He works hard to develop students and help them achieve their goals. He has made the Learning Centre a vibrant and supportive environment. He developed a 'Learning Centre Team' of students that came up with and executed ideas to make the LC a better place.

What makes him stand out is his caring attitude. His previous job as a counsellor has definitely impacted the way he interacts with students. He never fails to see the good in everyone, and shares this with them.

“Always enthusiastic and 'pumping', Mr Bennett makes us feel valued and respected individually, and strives to bring out our true potential.”


Winner: Shareen Kumar, Commerce Teacher at Waikato Campus

Shareen is a long-serving member of Waikato Campus and our Commerce Department.

She is a hardworking teacher who does not seek praise or accolades. Her sense of humour is much appreciated.

“This opportunity to nominate a magic weaver is perfect for the students of Waikato to recognise her hard work.”

“She is an amazing teacher who is dedicated to helping students and setting them on the path to success and having fun on the way. She is loved by ALL.”

“She has her own excellent style of teaching that works for everybody. She gets to know people as individuals. This helps every student to feel welcome and accepted.”

“Mrs Kumar ensures every student has a chance to reach their personal goals in Business Studies and Accounting.”

Our award winners are all remarkable performers who reflect what we are striving to achieve – world class teachers providing amazing learning opportunities to our students.