St Hilda's Collegiate school principal Melissa Bell has
been honoured at Parliament with a national excellence in
She was one of 25 educators recognised yesterday at the
National Excellence in Teaching Awards (NEiTA) as New
Zealand's most dedicated and outstanding teachers and
Twelve ASG Education Programs New Zealand Excellence in
Teaching Awards and 13 Cognition Excellence in Leadership
Awards were given to teachers and education leaders from the
early childhood, primary, intermediate and secondary school
sectors across the country.
Ms Bell said she was humbled by her leadership award, which
was presented by Education Minister Hekia Parata.
''For me, it was most exciting to know I had been nominated
by my school community - I think that is really wonderful.''
The award put a ''nice ray of light'' on what had been a very
difficult year for the 41-year-old, who was diagnosed with an
aggressive form of breast cancer last March.
''It's kind of a really nice conclusion and nice recognition
of the work I've done at this stage of my career.
''It's also been really motivating to be surrounded by
incredible educators who are already passionate about what
they do. It's fantastic.''
After surgery, 12 rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of
radiation treatment, Ms Bell returned to fulltime work last
October, and her doctors have since given her a clean bill of
During her treatment, she turned the adversity into an
inspirational life lesson for her pupils by sharing details
of her illness, treatment and emotions, in a bid to give her
pupils the tools to deal with breast cancer if they
experienced it in later life.
NEiTA Foundation chief executive John Velegrinis said each
award recipient demonstrated a wide range of exemplary
teaching skills - from helping at-risk children turn their
lives around, to increasing pupil participation in science by
more than 40%.
''It is so heartening to meet teaching professionals who are
so committed to bringing out the best in our children
academically and socially.
''Their record of achievement in going above and beyond, to
help students reach their full potential, is outstanding.''
Ms Bell said she was now a finalist for the NEiTA national
award, which could see her win an all-expenses-paid trip to
the United States for professional development.
Since 1996, more than $185,000 has been distributed to NEiTA
award recipients in grants for professional development,
prizes and endowments.