The Best Educators in Australia |
Hot List 2023

Scholarly superstars

The Hot List recognises the movers and shakers in Australia’s education industry. Their achievements span creating new curricula, mentoring colleagues, integrating ingenious teaching techniques and developing digital tools. All of 2023’s cohort has been successful in these areas, but most importantly, they are improving the status quo for the nation’s students.

The principal of Firbank Grammar School, Jenny Williams, was a winner in 2022 and explains what effect it had.

“Being able to say that I was on the Hot List has been really good,” she says. “It increased my profile, and it also meant that people and organisations reached out to me because of that. What it also did was affirm some of the things that I’ve been doing.”

Williams also comments on what attributes qualify an educator to make the Hot List.

She says, “I think you need to have self-belief that what you’re doing is worthwhile and also be a risk-taker willing to try something because it doesn’t always work. You also need to be a team player because it’s very hard to do things by yourself, but it’s about reaching out to others, talking to experts in the field and listening to what’s going on.”


Shane Wilson: culturally responsive pioneer

Marble Bar Primary School has attracted international attention for its contextually relevant curriculum, marshalled by its principal, who has travelled to Pakistan, Finland, Singapore and across Australia to discuss his achievements.

“We’ve also got a really strong cultural heritage with our First Nations people in this part of the world, and it’s absolutely important that we’re giving our community an active voice in our education,” says Wilson. “I’ve worked very closely with our community on integrating their First Nations culture, language and history into the eight learning areas of the Australian curriculum, and I really believe that we’ve thrived.”

Wilson was recognised with an Australian Schools Plus fellowship for his leadership in culturally responsive STEM education.

And Marble Bar was also honoured with:

  • Ideagen CompliSpace Best First Nations Program in an Australian School for 2023
  • International Gold Medal at the 2022 Australia Pacific ICT Awards
  • Asia-Pacific ICT Alliance’s Public Sector Digital Government Solution of 2022 Award
  • Excellence Award for Grok Academy Best STEM Program

The school, located 1,500 kilometres north of Perth, has managed to blend cutting-edge modern technology with the area’s rich First Nations history.

Wilson says, “A lot of schools are actually going into the space where they’re only using virtual reality as a consumerism or behaviour management tool, whereas we are using it to create content for the virtual world that could be seen by many audiences around the world.”

A typical lesson might see students draw a picture of their favourite Australian animal. Then, as part of the maths within STEM, they’ll scale it onto a traditional canvas using software. From there, they use other programs to put the artwork in the virtual world, adding lighting and interactivity.

“With our students, I teach them about the Emu story and the sky, which is a very popular Aboriginal story. As part of that, I’m teaching them about storyboarding, so the students sequence each event, and the aim is to put that story into the astronomy virtual world so that audiences from anywhere around the world can actually experience that Aboriginal Dreamtime story, utilising virtual technologies that started off with us storyboarding with a two-dimensional design,” says Wilson.

A major benefit of the school’s approach is that it’s appropriate for their students.

Wilson says, “Aboriginal children are predominantly visual learners, so they’re really thriving, and for most of our students, English is an additional language, so we really do need to limit the amount of words and be very specific, as well as using pictorial cues as they need that support with their English development.”

Another facet of the curriculum is students using drones to map the local area, which sets them up for potential employment opportunities.

“Our local mining industry here in the Pilbara is calling out for indigenous students with STEM-related skills, such as the ability to control a drone and the ability to use virtual technology, which is what we are teaching them,” Wilson says.

As a result of the success at Marble Bar, the Department of Education, Cultures of Excellence and partner Airborne IT are scaling the pedagogy into a prototype, which will be rolled out to 10 schools nationwide.

Shane Wilson, Marble Bar Primary School
“We had a virtual developer from New York that signed into one of our presentations from the Perth Convention Centre and offered one of my Year 7 students income to showcase her non-fungible token on an American virtual platform”
Shane WilsonMarble Bar Primary School


Kerri Buttery: tech titan

The founder and CEO of Digital Literacy Licence is a former technology teacher who is using her classroom experience to drive change across the industry.

“In a school, the bits that I loved doing were helping the other teachers integrate technology into their classrooms,” Buttery says. “So, it’s been a natural progression for me to be doing that on a broader scale.”

The integral role that Buttery plays is in introducing technology in an effective way.

“I’m trying to support those teachers in making their lives a little bit easier,” she says.

Her firm is able to assist with issues such as:

  • developing apps for online learning classes
  • facilitating online collaboration among teachers
  • streamlining teachers’ workloads
  • assisting teachers in staying organised


Another example is an online tool that can scan information and generate multiple-choice questions.

“I’ll either upload a document or refer to a URL; it’s done in two minutes, and that can be used with a class without any effort at all,” Buttery says. “It’s a great way of engaging with technology that makes something fun, and it’s not going to add to a teacher’s workload.”

Buttery’s skills also extend to the other side of a teacher’s role outside of the classroom. She offers solutions for file management or information capture.

She says, “It could be they don’t know where it’s been saved or something that you’ve developed in a previous year by another teacher who’s now left the school. I can help them understand file management and get good practices in place.

“Also, recordkeeping and having good systems in place for capturing information can make things easier, for example, by teaching people how to set up online forms, and those forms can then send data straight to a spreadsheet, so they are not having to spend time collecting information.”

Mindful that schools are busy and sometimes unable to take on more, Buttery has developed a program that can be accessed directly by students.

“They can do digital literacy programs without the teacher having to do anything because not every teacher is able to teach digital literacy, and not every school has enough teachers that can teach it,” she says. “Our program actually takes that work away from the teacher and frees them up to do other things.”

Kerri Buttery, Digital Literacy Licence
“I’m helping schools use AI and teach students how to make the most of that tool because it’s going to be there; it’s not going away”
Kerri ButteryDigital Literacy Licence


Therese Turner-Jones: leader of literature

It’s been a satisfying first year in her new role as head of English at Wenona School in North Sydney. The veteran has led a department of teachers at different points in their careers.

“I’ve got a mixture of very highly experienced staff, but I’ve really got very young, enthusiastic teachers with wonderful potential, and it’s been building that team to be high performing with success. I am at a high-performing school; I have aspirational parents and students, so it’s very much about leveraging the experience that I’ve got,” says Turner-Jones.

Transparency is a fundamental building block of her style, which has resonated with those in her department.

“One of the things that I was complimented on quickly was that I told them they should bring things that they wanted to me, and I said the classic line would be ‘leave it with me’,” says Turner-Jones. “I don’t make any promises, but they got to know very quickly. You leave it with Therese, and she will action it timely, and I think that’s what they’ve really liked.”

To get the best from her staff, Turner-Jones has implemented initiatives including:

  • teacher pairing
  • team teaching

“What ends up happening over a couple of lessons is that the kids love it and they just thrive because we end up having this brain trust with two teachers working together, building the knowledge, and the kids are the beneficiaries.”

Despite making a significant impact in her role, Turner-Jones is focused on raising standards even more. A key focus point for her is going to be communication across her staff.

“I have a huge department, and this is an even bigger school that I’ve gone to before, so an ongoing challenge is how we communicate, and that means opening up and finding new methods of communication,” she says.

Turner-Jones references her daughters, one of whom is a lawyer and the other a criminologist, as being sources of inspiration for her in how they push their work to benefit society. This is the attitude she adopted in her career as an educator.

“Literacy is really important to me, and that’s probably one of the reasons why I’m on the Hot List, because I do really want to bring it to the forefront all the time. This is not just a slight interest; I’ve got a major interest, and I’m very passionate about it.”

Therese Turner-Jones, Wenona School
“My reputation goes before me in many ways, but you’re only as good as what you’re delivering in the moment”
Therese Turner-JonesWenona School


The Best Educators in Australia | Hot List 2023

  • Alison Marsh
    Head of Department
    Marsden State High School (Qld)
  • Anna Owen
    Sunshine Coast Grammar School (Qld)
  • Ashley Pratt
    Executive Director Curriculum, Pedagogy and Innovation
    Melbourne Girls Grammar (Vic)
  • Brendan Kenna
    Assistant Principal
    Wilmot Road Primary School (Vic)
  • Celia Mara
    Head of Teaching and Learning
    Balcombe Grammar School (Vic)
  • Chonny James
    Director of Wellbeing
    Presbyterian Ladies’ College (WA)
  • Chris Buswell
    Head of Education
    STEM Punks (Qld)
  • Chris Nastrom-Smith
    Deputy Principal – Curriculum
    Loreto College Coorparoo (Qld)
  • Daniel Edwards
    STEM Teacher
    Montello Primary School (Tas)
  • Deborah Lonsdale-Walker
    Deputy Principal
    Stuartholme School (Qld)
  • Deborah Netolicky
    Walford Anglican School for Girls (SA)
  • Doug Thomas
    Claremont College (NSW)
  • Dr Keith Graham, OAM
    Internal School Reviewer/Principal
    QLD Department of Education (Qld)
  • Dr Zeynep Yaseen
    International Maarif Schools of Australia (NSW)
  • Emma Moy
    Regional Manager
    Polly Farmer Foundation (NT)
  • Erin Ware
    Deputy Head
    Ormiston College (Qld)
  • Fiona Hutton
    Founder and Managing Director
    Hutton Consulting Australia (Vic)
  • Greg Wilkinson
    Director of eLearning and Education Leadership Team
    Saint Stephen’s College (Qld)
  • Hayden Shaw
    ICT Manager
    St Philip’s Christian Education Foundation (NSW)
  • Janet Louise Schneider
    Head of Department Languages
    All Hallows’ School (Qld)
  • Julie Pilioglou
    Director of Vocational Education
    Caroline Chisholm Catholic College (Vic)
  • Justin Pembroke
    STEM and Digital Pedagogy Coach
    Baringa State Primary School (Qld)
  • Lara Bird
    Deputy Head of Junior School Academics
    Pymble Ladies’ College (NSW)
  • Laura Bain
    Head of Emerging Technologies and Innovation
    Matthew Flinders Anglican College (Qld)
  • Lauren Sayer
    Director of Curriculum
    Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (Vic)
  • Linda Galloway
    Balmoral State High School (Qld)
  • Lisa Miller
    Head of Junior School
    Strathcona Girls Grammar (Vic)
  • Liz Foster
    Executive Principal
    Wavell State High School (Qld)
  • Lorna Beegan
    Deputy Principal – Strategy and Innovation
    Genazzano FCJ College (Vic)
  • Louise Piva
    Head of English
    Casey Grammar School (Vic)
  • Maria Sabo
    Learning Area Leader – Languages
    Emmaus College (Vic)
  • Mathew Disher
    Head of Middle School and Chemistry Teacher
    Scotch College Adelaide (SA)
  • Matt Jensen
    Learning and Teaching Leader – Middle Years
    St Mary’s College Ipswich (Qld)
  • Melissa June Fanshawe
    Senior Lecturer and Senior Experienced Teacher
    University of Southern Queensland (Qld)
  • Mitchell Mills
    Head of Year 11/12
    Saint Stephen’s College (Qld)
  • Peter Foster
    School Principal
    Mancel College (Qld)
  • Phillip Heath, AM
    Barker College (NSW)
  • Rachael Patrick
    Head of Learning – Humanities and Commerce Faculty
    Loyola College (Vic)
  • Trent Cowley
    Executive Principal
    Mabel Park State High School (Qld)
  • Vanessa Jackson-McRae
    Head of the Science Faculty
    St Catherine’s School (Vic)


As part of our editorial process, Key Media’s researchers interviewed the subject matter expert below for an independent analysis of this report and its findings.
  • Jenny Williams
    Jenny Williams
    Firbank Grammar School


Applications are now open



The Educator received nominations for the ninth annual Hot List between 17 July and 11 August. The team obtained details of the nominees’ achievements and contributions to the profession.

Nominees were evaluated based on the overall impact of their work in the K–12 education sector over the past 12 months, demonstrating expertise in linking theory and practice and designing and implementing innovations that provide students with high-quality educational experiences.

Although narrowing down the list of candidates was challenging, the selection process was worthwhile, thanks to the achievements of the 50 winners who represent the cutting edge of educational excellence in Australia.

The 2023 Hot List is proudly supported by the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA).

About the supporting association

PESA is a peak association of schools, universities, educators, parents, researchers, charities and other community members who share an interest in an evidence-based approach to wellbeing and a commitment to supporting schools, students and the wider community to flourish. The association is based in Australia with a national focus and also welcomes international members.


For the science of wellbeing and positive psychology to be integrated throughout the education system, enabling all students, schools and communities to flourish.


To lead, promote and foster the implementation and development of positive education.