Exceptional teachers deserve
A Day Made Better

Check out all the exceptional winning teachers from previous years by selecting the year below.
Here are their stories:

Days Made Better


In 2011, principals from selected primary and intermediate schools across New Zealand were invited to participate in the inaugural A Day Made Better programme. They were asked to nominate a teacher who they believed had demonstrated extraordinary passion and enthusiasm for teaching, and who had worked creatively to help children's learning beyond the classroom.

From the list of nominees, winning teachers across the country were chosen by an independent judging panel. Each teacher was awarded with $1000 worth of OfficeMax stationery and art and craft supplies for their classroom. 

In 2011, we surprised eight teachers across New Zealand.

Karlene Thomson
Share the great work this winner does
See More


"Karlene takes the lead not only within the school to provide and organise sporting opportunities but also does this for the regional cluster of schools. She organises several major sports days each year. At such interschool events she organises, supervises and encourages team participation. She provides leadership and coaching to our school teams and ensures they all have managers and lets them know exactly where and when they need to be at the various venues. She organises venues, umpires and buses. Although the majority of our teams play in local competitions Karlene also coaches and organises our 'A' netball team to play in the Manawatu competition. They have regular coaching sessions and then travel to Palmerston North each Monday night to compete. Karlene travels every week with them to run the side lines and give advice. They certainly hold their own against much bigger schools. She also organises annual educational trips alternating between the coast and Wellington city. These week long trips take a great deal of organising and are intense but very educational, not only academically but also in the development of self-management skills.As syndicate leader Karlene has demonstrated, by example, the importance of participating in professional development to improve her effectiveness as a teacher and leader. Her skills of delivery, assessment of learning and lifting achievement have been an example to our other teachers. She engages and motivates all the students and leads the syndicate and school in singing.Karlene's calm, fair but firm way of approaching life transfers across her class, syndicate and school. Children respect this and behaviours within the school is managed in a similar way with children taking responsibility for their own behaviour. Those who do transgress accept the consequences, which are generally decided upon together and are then able to move on, having learnt from the mistake.The students in Karlene's class are all drawn along by her enthusiasm and motivation to learn. She is sincere and genuine; quietly spoken but has a passion to see every child succeed. She adapts the curriculum and looks for creative contexts to involve the students in their learning. They are encouraged to look for self-improvement and to take responsibility for their learning which is then acknowledged and rewarded in a variety of appropriate ways.Positive talk and active support is Karlene's 'm.o.' when it comes to motivating others. It also sums up her approach to life!ICT is totally integrated and the students learn in an environment where they are directly involved in their own learning. She encourages 'hands-on' and allows creative groupings and ways of learning. The students have a 'say' in their learning and they respect this opportunity. The classroom is relaxed but orderly and the students are not afraid to take risks. They know they are all valued. Karlene makes sure the students have the resources they need, no matter how creative, and supports them to display their learning through innovative activities. Her love for music is evident and is shared in many ways with her class and the school."

Kathryn Tofia
Share the great work this winner does
See More


"Kathryn organises quizzes, clubs, Kapa Haka, Japanese cooking, making sushi, making sure something for everyone, camps involved in all fundraising, organises donuts weekly for road patrol, takes senior girls for 'ladies talk' at local café. All these things she uses her own money for.Her motto is - "Attitude is Everything". Always strives to instill values and key competencies - cares for everyone. She is always doing extra things for children and they see that and respond.She uses technology - I pads, activboard etc. Kathryn uses 'circle time' for feelings. She listens to children and includes them in our school motto Independence through Responsibility.She is kind and special, 'she is one in a million!'."

Sandra Rangikataua
Share the great work this winner does
See More


"Sandra is in charge of the 'fruit in schools programme'. She organises after school study class and takes after school Te Reo classes for other teachers.She is a real 'mummy'. For many a safe place to be, with breakfast and lunch is the best part of their lives. We believe all children can be the best they can with good teaching.Sandra has a vibrant classroom with lots of learning stations. Inclusive of whanau. She is driven, committed, compassionate and caring."

Kate Kerr
Share the great work this winner does
See More


"Kate goes above and beyond the call of duty every day, providing a stimulating learning environment and a happy, joyful beginning to every student who starts at our school. Kate is always enthusiastic, keen to try new things and provide the children with a wide variety of stimulating experiences, inside and outside the classroom. Every child is greeted and made to feel valued in some way each day. Kate is currently our ICT Lead Teacher and an inspiration to her fellow staff members. An example also of this is Kate spending over $100 of her own money at a toy sale last night because she believed it would help the children in her class.Every student, no matter how they start school, comes out of Kate's class with a positive attitude to school and a good grounding in the basics. Kate emphasizes the positives and builds upon these, ensuring that every child wishes to achieve to their highest for her and themselves. This also creates a very positive learning partnership with the home and the parents wishing to be involved in their children's education.There is a letter of the week. Every Friday the class have a cooking session where the children make food related to the letter is made by and eaten by the children e.g. P, p, p - pancakes of f, f, f - fabulous fish fingers. All of the materials for this come from Kate's own pocket, including the appliances. Kate integrates ICT effectively into her classroom programme with the children learning a wide range of computer and other ICT skills to help with their learning."

Amy Holder
Share the great work this winner does
See More


"Amy is only a Y3 teacher, but has immersed and committed herself to her school and students in a way which belies her experience. She has boundless energy and enthusiasm and combines this with her out going personality to demonstrate a real passion for teaching. She is the schools sports/PE coordinator and has led this important curriculum area extremely well, inspiring students and teachers. Amy also leads and coordinates the school student council developing their leadership skills by arranging for them to carry out activities that benefit the students, school and community. She arranges the students to visit and work for the Auckland City Mission Charity, as well as relief fundraisers for the Christchurch Earthquake victims.Amy leads her students by example and ensures they intrinsically follow and believe in the school motto 'to be the best I can possibly be'. She demonstrates a strong empathy for students, especially those who may struggle to fit in. The students are drawn to her because of her supportive and caring nature. She has a special interest and skill in teaching science, she provides experiences which stretch the students' thinking. Her subject knowledge is extremely motivational and builds the students' curiosity whilst encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone and take risks in order to learn from their mistakes. Amy also has exceptional IT skills and uses web 2.0 tools in the classroom to provide her students with high quality 21st Century learning opportunities.Amt is extremely creative and she used these those skills to re-create an authentic 'war-zone' in her classroom (complete with rifles/uniforms/helmets/camouflage netting etc) to create an ambience that reflected the army/war. She did the same thing for her 'space' unit, recreating and intergalactic environment/theme to motivate learning. As the PE/Sport lead teacher she has brought a wide range and outside sport groups/agencies/coaches into the school to encourage students to participate in physical and sports activities."

Rebecca Wilson
Share the great work this winner does
See More


"Rebecca spends countless hours planning and creating different ways to engage and extend our students by providing outstanding learning opportunities. She is always thinking of how to support our families, particularly after the earthquake. This caring attitude filters through the Junior Syndicate and whole school. She has instigated The Reggio Learning Philosophy and the impact of this is immense.The Reggio philosophy has helped our Junior children in particular, felt more confident to explore their learning with confidence and allow their self esteem to grow and develop. Rebecca oversees a large Junior syndicate and holds a regular parent and staff meetings. This collaboration creates a strong environment for our children to blossom in their learning.As mentioned, the Reggio philosophy is just catching in New Zealand and Rebecca has visited Melbourne and the North Island as well as hosting close to 70 educators from the South Island to motivate and instruct them in how to promote this amazing approach to learning. She is certainly leading the way in this area and has put in huge hours to fully research this topic."

Bev Brice
Share the great work this winner does
See More


"Bev has been an outstanding teacher for just over 41 years, the last 25 as a special needs teacher at Kaka Street. Bev always advocates for her students and their families. Bev provides outstanding care, focus, aroha and teaching expertise for her students. Bev puts in the long hours after her students have gone home, to prepare resources and organise the teaching focus plans for the next day. On top of this role she also guides her support staff, attends Management Team and Staff meetings. Bev always seeks professional development opportunities that are centered on her students extensive special needs characteristics that include intellectual impairment, Floating Harbor Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Fragile X.No two days are the same given the extensive needs and challenging behaviours of her students. When you enter her 'House Classroom' you instantly feel that there is something special going on. The activities and conversations between students and staff involved are 'real learning experiences'.Bev constantly seeks new and innovative ideas to motivate and draw in her students to their learning. The excellent New Zealand curriculum which we have is this country has to be adapted for our students. Bev is an expert at this. Each student has to have an individual programme tailored to their needs which is no small challenge. Lots of visual material, practical activities including community visits are a few examples."

Craig Adams
Share the great work this winner does
See More


"Craig instigated, plans for and runs a special programme for the boys who are struggling with their school work and social interactions with their peers. This programme takes up to three of his lunchtimes. He coaches two basketball teams. He is the coach for the district representative under 52kg rugby team. He is a strong role model for the boys in the whole school, and attends all of the sports fixtures the boys in his lunchtime group are involved in, to provide support and encouragement to them. He is involved in the big brother/ big sister programme and is mentor to an ex pupil who has special needs. He frequently supplies materials for kids who need them... boots, lunches, stationery. Before and after school he is often seen playing games with the kids from his senior class, offering advice and discussing issues with them as needed. Staff members are supported by him dealing with difficult students helping put up displays etc.The number of playground incidents have significantly been reduced since his programme was developed for those children who were previously presenting problems at break times. Those who do cause problems are excluded and this is a significant deterrent. His role model of providing assistance and friendship to children with less acceptable social status has had a marked impact on the other children and their acceptance of all their peers. Because Craig is an ex-pupil of the school himself he has inspired the children to believe that they too could go and get further education at a tertiary level in their futures.Because of the physical activities he organises that appeal to his pupils Craig is able to get a greater level of engagement in the classroom for the academic subjects with all the children. He commands respect and so is better able to get the best out of his pupils. He uses the latest technology in creative ways. He creates healthy competition that inspires improvement. He includes fun activities and relates them to everyday situations."