National Farmers' Federation

‘2007 Trade Teacher of the Year’ announced today

THREE of Australia’s top rural educators were recognised today in a ceremony for the inaugural ‘2007 Rural Trade Teacher of the Year’ Awards.
The Awards, run by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) in conjunction with the Institute for Trade Skills Excellence, aim to raise the profile of rural trade skills teaching and its importance to rural communities, while also providing fitting recognition and reward for our exceptional trade teachers.
“Today’s three winners each demonstrate not only outstanding achievements in teaching, but also an admirable commitment to the future sustainability of Australian agriculture,” NFF President David Crombie said.
“The winners were chosen from an exceptional field, with nominees representing a cross section of courses, learning institutions and States.
The winners are: (see Biographies at ‘Attachment A’ below):
* National Agriculture Teacher Award: Mr Graeme Harris (NSW)
* National Horticulture Teacher Award: Mr Silvino (Ben) Balaba (QLD)
* National Conservation and Land Management Teacher Award: Mr Andrew Nicholson (WA)
Each winner takes home $10,000 in prize money – $5,000 of which will go towards a developmental education project designed by the recipient.
Graeme Harris was also awarded the overall ‘2007 Rural Trade Teacher Award’ and will now compete for the title of ‘2007 National Trade Teacher of the Year’, along with the remaining seven industries under the Institute for Trade Skills Excellence.
“Facing an unprecedented demand for skilled labour, Australian agriculture is heavily reliant on the ability to provide interesting and rewarding employment opportunities,” Mr Crombie said.
“Making those opportunities available are the rural trade teachers, who play a vital role in trade education and training around the nation, skilling and growing our dynamic rural communities.
“The NFF is dedicated to not only encouraging, but recognising and rewarding, excellence in trade teaching. The ability to attract, train and retain workers in rural trades serves the long-term prospects of employees, regional communities and the farm businesses that rely on them.
“The NFF congratulates all of today’s winners of the ‘2007 Rural Trade Teacher Awards’ and wishes Mr Graeme Harris all the best in the next stage of the Awards.”
National Horticulture Teacher of the Year Award
Ben Balaba is the Horticulture Teacher at the Ashmore Campus of the Gold Coast Institute for TAFE in Queensland. Taking a proactive approach to his teaching, Ben takes on the role of mentor to his students in their on-the-job experiences, always encouraging further professional development and higher learning.
Ben is regarded by his peers, students and industry as dedicated to achieving excellence in teaching and committed to skilling and encouraging the next generation of agriculture teachers.
Presently working his way through a Doctorate thesis on the historical evolution and evaluation of TAFE Horticulture curriculum, Ben is centrally involved in the creation and running of many programs, activities and networks related to his field.
Ben’s developmental project is to document diverse horticultural practices and skills of refugee communities in Southeast Queensland. He will then integrate the findings into the competency framework whilst identifying any gaps for additional education and training to occur.
National Conservation & Land Management Teacher of the Year Award
Andrew Nicholson was nominated in all three categories for his outstanding work in each field, however was recognised specifically for his work in conservation and land management.
Andrew is a Lecturer of Primarily Industries at the Great Southern TAFE in Albany, Western Australia, with extensive background experience as a farm worker, contractor and owner.
His practical experience in land management plays an important role in his high-level understanding of complex rehabilitation problems as well as conservation strategies and implementation.
Through his involvement with industry advisory groups, Andrew successfully introduced appropriate and high interest electives into conservation and land management courses.
Andrew has proactively engaged local schools and other TAFE institutions in his area through successful projects under the Australian Government ‘Industry pathways’ program and the Australian Flexible Learning Framework, to name just a few.
Andrew strongly believes in the value of Recognition of Prior Learning and in this area has driven many programs across industry sectors to achieve greater value for industry in education, training and skills development.
Andrew’s developmental project is the development of assessment resources and strategies to support the uptake of whole-of-qualification RPL (Recognised Prior Learning) in trade and skill recognition areas.
National Agriculture Teacher of the Year Award
Graeme Harris is the Vocational Education and Training Coordinator at Farrer Memorial Agricultural College in Tamworth, NSW.
Graeme has taught in the field of primary industries, agriculture and science since 1979, teaching students from year seven through to year 12 in Agriculture.
Demonstrating significant achievements in teaching, Graeme is widely recognised for the excellence he brings to his school and agriculture education and training as a whole.
He maintains significant involvement in industry-projects, including a pilot program with Cotton Australia developing a nationally accredited “Cotton Basics” course.
Graeme’s developmental project is to investigate the move towards sustainable production of cotton through improved water use efficiency in the upper Murray Darling Basin as a case study for Year 11 and 12 agriculture students, and Vocational Education and Training (VET) Primary Industries students.
Overall Rural Trade Teacher of the Year 2007
Graeme Harris was awarded the title of overall winner in the rural industry category. He will now compete to be named ‘2007 Trade Teacher of the Year’ against the other seven industry category winners.
The Institute for Trade Skills Excellence will announce the final winner at the National Training Awards gala dinner in Hobart, Tasmania on 8 November 2007.
Graeme has the admirable goal to bring VET into a typically non-vocational environment. His strong industry involvement across a wide-range of industries, coupled with his desire to ensure students are effectively placed into the industry, make him a worthwhile recipient of this Award.
The National Farmers’ Federation congratulates Graeme, Ben and Andrew on their achievements.

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