Kalianna staff win big at Principal Association awards night just hours after tree branch drops

Last Friday was a day of mixed emotions for staff at Kalianna School Bendigo.

At 3pm, a student and a carer were both seriously injured when a tree on school property shed one of its branches. 

Just hours later, several teachers were being recognised for their outstanding contribution to education.

The state’s education minister, James Merlino, was among those to congratulate principal Peter Bush and his team after they picked up four out of a possible 10 trophies at the annual Principals Association of Specialist Schools Victoria award.

They were nominated in another four PASS categories.

Mr Bush was named most outstanding principal for clearly following his school’s motto, “Unite and inspire”. 

“The staff at Kalianna describe him as a visionary – willing to take risks in order to maintain what is best for students,” a PASS spokesperson said. 

His influence was also felt beyond Bendigo, they said, with Mr Bush serving as treasurer to the Australian Special Education Principals’ Association for several years. 

Mr Bush said the awards were proof his school were “heading in the right direction”.

“It’s confirmation we’ve got brilliant staff and, with the new build happening, there’s exciting times going to the future,” he said. 

Primary school teacher Wendy Edwards was also acknowledged on the night with a PASS spokesperson making mention of her “unwavering commitment to the social, emotional and academic needs of students with a disability”.

“Her transition from mainstream to specialist education has had significant impact on the staff, students and wider community of Kalianna School,” they said.

Kalianna’s Dehne Anstee was named leading teacher of the year. Not only was he an educator for students, he was also deeply involved in providing other staff professional learning in the area of digital technology. 

The school also took home a team award for excellence in student engagement.

“Engaging students with challenging behaviours is a complexity that all schools, especially specialist settings are becoming increasingly faced with,” the spokesperson said. 

“Opportunities for authentic learning experiences for those who are hard to engage is exactly what Kalianna Special School’s student engagement program seeks to deliver.”

Part of their success were links links created with La Trobe University’s occupational therapy program that help track student progress.