The best and brightest among our students and teachers have been celebrated this week.
The 2021 NSW Minister's and Secretary's Awards for Excellence recognised several members of the education sector from the south-west among the 105 students, teachers, staff and parents who have made major contributions to their school communities.
Schools which have developed innovative programs focussed on student wellbeing, improving school results or changing the way education is delivered within the government system have also been acknowledged.
Representing Fairfield and Liverpool are students, teachers and parents from Bringelly Public School, Prairiewood High School, Liverpool Boys High School, Hoxton Park High School and Harrington Street Public School.
Prairiewood High School's Nhi Lu received the Minister's Award for Excellence in Student Achievement for her work in a variety of disciplines, as well as "demanding duties" as School Prefect.
"She is held in high esteem by peers and staff alike, because of her consistent commitment to the school community, and infectious energy that draws others to engage in matters of high social and environmental importance," her citation read.
"Coming from a disadvantaged socio-economic background, Nhi has achieved outcomes in her learning and leadership that can only be attributed to her determination and drive to succeed."
Her classmate Mark Tran received the same award for his achievement across multiple platforms.
"Academically he ranks first in Mathematics Extension 2 and Chemistry having achieved Band 6 and E4 in the 2020 HSC Mathematics and Extension 1 Examinations," the citation read.
"As a school prefect, Mark's leadership with and for others is exceptional and operating beyond self. He has been consistently mindful and purposeful in his school and community engagement, enriching school culture, raising awareness of critical social issues, and encouraging others to play their part."
Liverpool Boys' Danielle Demetrios received the Minister's Award for Excellence in Teaching, for all her hard work since joining the school in 2009.
"She has built deep relationships with students, staff and external partners," the citation said.
"Danielle demonstrates a work ethic way beyond what is expected and has dedicated herself to a range of pursuits.
"Her deep professional knowledge, exemplary practice and ongoing engagement make her an asset not only to our school but to public education."
The school also scored the Secretary's Award for Outstanding School initiative for its Big Picture Academy.
"Big Picture is an opportunity for students to pursue their passions and interests through deep learning experiences," the citation read.
"Putting students at the centre of decisions around what, how and when they learn is key to nurturing the next generations of engaged, independent learners."
The academy sees students combine academic work with internships to plan their pathways to employment, study or enterprise.
Prairiewood High School collected the same award for its Reaching for the Stars astronomy and space science program for high performing students.
"The school boasts an onsite observatory and two state-of-the-art telescopes that bring science learning to life," the citation read.
Students are able to engage in stargazing nights, the Astronomy Club, astronomy camps and excursions to Questacon.
The winning continued in the same category at Hoxton Park High School, which was recognised for its Stage 5 Moving Forward program.
"With a vision that all students will leave school with a career path, we developed [the program] to support disengaged students with an authentic transition plan," the citation read.
"The program is designed to assist students in becoming 'job ready' whilst completing both their ROSA and Certificate qualifications."
The program is run in partnership with TAFE NSW, My Gateway, SkillsRoad, Job Quest, Bunnings and Motor Trade Association.
Bringelly's Simone Billinghurst received the Secreatary's Award for Excellence Service, for her passion and dedication to improving education opportunities for students.
"She has devoted her time in increasing the professional skills of others, particularly in the understanding and development of Aboriginal Education," Ms Billinghurst's citation stated.
"Simone is very respected amongst her fellow teachers and executives in creating pathways to improve students outcomes."
Also at Bringelly, parent Dianne Bentley earned the Public School Parent of the Year Award.
A P&C member since 2018, and treasurer and canteen manager for three years, Ms Bentley is dedicated to maintaining Bringelly's Healthy Canteen status.
"Her passion for helping others flows onto her family, which comprises of her own family and eight foster children," Ms Bentley's citation read.
"The Bringelly staff have the highest respect for Di and her dedication to family, community and the school."
Ben and Swannida Stewart were recognised in the same category for their dedication to Harrington Street Public School.
"They are dedicated long-time members of the school P&C committee and have volunteered endless hours to coordinating and assisting with fundraises and community events that have benefitted the students, staff and community," the citation stated.
"Ben served as school captain in 1992 and their children are third generation students, which shows their strong connection with the school and community."