The awards were staged virtually this year as a result of Covid, and knowing she had been nominated, St Patrick’s Primary Year 3 teacher Kylie Hoad remained at the school with a dozen of her staff-mates to watch the live-stream from the Cessnock Leagues Club.
It was worth the effort. While her curious colleagues were helping clean up the cheese, nibblies and pizza St Patrick’s Primary School principal Maree Jones had organised as an accompaniment to the Zoom event, Ms Hoad “cleaned up” on the awards front.
She won the Education and Training Award, the Cessnock Chamber of Commerce People’s Choice Award, and was then named the overall winner of the Education and Wellbeing category.
“I was honoured just to be nominated,” Ms Hoad said. “But the pleasing aspect for me was the recognition for Education and Wellbeing considering the year we have had. It was a surprise.
“There were more than 850 nominations and we’re in the vineyards with a lot of popular restaurants and businesses, so there was a lot of competition.”
Ms Hoad has taught at St Patrick’s, Cessnock, for more than 20 years, developing strong relationships with students and their families and recognising a sense of belonging with the town.
The judges said Ms Hoad was the "standout nominee" of the entire presentation night.
"We loved how she identified her students, their parents and carers, and her fellow staff members as clients who deserved her upmost respect, and her approach to customer service that followed," they said.
Principal Jones said Ms Hoad has been a valued member of staff for many years.
“She has undertaken many varied roles in her capacity as a teacher,” said Mrs Jones. “Kylie has nurtured and helped so many students academically, socially and particularly in all aspects of their overall well-being.
“To say that we are very proud of Kylie Hoad is an understatement. The positive contribution Kylie makes to St Patrick's on a daily basis and the love and care she shows to her students is truly amazing. Kylie has the gift of being able to bring out the very best in her students.”
It is not only her current principal who supports the Cessnock Chamber of Commerce’s awards. Ms Hoad’s email inbox since the announcement has been constantly full of messages from families and former colleagues and students.
“It was a team effort,” Ms Hoad said. “It could quite easily have been any teacher at St Patrick’s. They are all very dedicated to being the best teachers they can be.”
Cessnock Chamber of Commerce president Allan Davies presented Ms Hoad with her awards at the Monday morning assembly on 7 December and made mention of the overwhelming feedback he and the judges received in relation to her and St Patrick’s.
Ms Hoad’s humility and great pride in her school community impressed Mr Davies. He said all local businesses were champions in the chamber's eyes, especially considering the tough year that has been.
"The community has been through a lot this year, with drought, fires and Covid," he said. "It's a testament to the true grit of the Cessnock people.”
Ms Hoad said teaching is a promise and a virtue you make to families.
“You want to make school the most enjoyable place on Earth,” she said. “You are teaching and caring for the next generation and as a teacher I have always strived to see all my students succeed and to do their best.”