Celebrating 25 Years of Service

Catholic Education Week celebrations provide an opportunity to recognise our committed and gifted teachers and support staff who have served 25 years in Catholic education.

Since the 25 Years of Service Awards began in 2006, over 350 Catholic Education Tasmania staff have been recognised for their generous service to our schools and colleges.

Learn more about the journey of some of the 2020 award recipients below.

Anita Cunningham


Fresh out of university, it was a nudge from a close friend that saw Anita Cunningham commence her career in Catholic education.

“One of my lovely friends, Kay Miotto, rang me the day before applications closed and said ‘Get your application in!’. I dropped my application in, and was interviewed the day before my wedding,” says Anita. “The Principal rang me later that day and offered me the position.”

Working with children is one of the things Anita enjoys most about her role as Principal of St Anthony’s Catholic School in Riverside, especially witnessing the moment students understand what they are learning, “their faces light up” says Anita. “It’s a joy to see.”

A particular highlight for Anita during her time at St Anthony’s was teaching her own children when they were in Grade One. Anita says, “they are twins, and they used to say 'Good morning Mrs Cunningham', whilst the rest of the class said 'Good morning Mum!' then we would all have a giggle at how audacious they were!"

Reflecting on her time in Catholic education it is the sense of community in Catholic schools that Anita appreciates, “I love that we can live out our faith, each and every day. We have something wonderful to offer - an education that is centred on Christ, and holds great wisdom.  I hope Catholic Schools remain places where all can participate and flourish.”

“I am very grateful that my friend Kay encouraged me to apply for my first teaching position in Catholic education, over 25 years ago.  I am also grateful to all who have encouraged me and supported me through these years, and particularly my family.”

Thank you for your service Anita!

Connie Thomas ConnieThomas


Connie Thomas has a relationship with Catholic education that extends beyond her 27 years at St James Catholic College. When her children commenced at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Geeveston, Connie was there to support them and also volunteered for numerous events at the School. When the time came for them transfer to St James, Connie was right there with them working as an aid at the College.

Having worked in almost every area of the College, it is her relationships with students that Connie values the most. “I enjoy the interaction with the students that I take for library lessons and seeing the joy on their faces when I read them a story or we do an activity or helping then chose a book to take home,” says Connie.

“I open the library every lunch time, which helps develop relationships with students from K – 10, which then helps with my other role of being the Chaplain at SJCC. In my role as Chaplain I work very closely with counsellors and teachers to achieve better outcomes for students and families that require assistance.” 

Seeing many changes during her time in Catholic education, Connie is mindful of the increasing challenges faced by those working in education. Her hope for the future of Catholic education in Tasmania is that we “listen to the schools and are guided by their needs and enter into a partnership for the outcome of students”.

Connie embodies learning for life having completed many courses and engaged in professional development opportunities during her time at the College. Connie says one of her highlights of working in Catholic education is “working alongside some fantastic people that I have learnt so much from and developing lifelong friendships with”.

Thank you for your service Connie!

Donna Banks


Inspired by the role models she encountered during her own years of schooling, Donna Banks knew she always wanted to be a teacher in a Catholic school.

Following the completion of her university studies in New South Wales, Donna accepted a position in Tasmania and hasn’t looked back. “[It] was a great opportunity to begin my teaching career and I have never regretted making the move” says Donna.

Emulating those who inspired Donna, ensuring that students get the most out of their education is an important aspect of her work. Donna says “It is always humbling to meet past students and hear of the positive impact I have had on their lives, even if in some small way.”

Nurturing the whole person is a key element of Catholic education and Donna hopes this continues into the future: “I remember meeting a past student several years after teaching her and she commented how much she appreciated me helping her to be more accepting of who she was and to know that she did not have to be like everyone else.”

“The promotion of pastoral care and compassion shown by staff in Catholic schools, whilst also providing engaging and relevant teaching and learning opportunities, is what I enjoy most about working in Catholic education.”

Teaching presents a variety of experiences each day, but the opportunity to support students to reach their potential is an aspect Donna enjoys most about teaching, “to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their families. It is very rewarding when working with students and they have a ‘lightbulb moment’ and know that you have been part of this.”

Donna says “we need to continue to build and strengthen relationships with students, families and the wider community in order to help young people become fully functioning members of our community.”

Thank you for your service Donna!

Julia Denniss


Catholic education is in Julia Denniss’ blood! A teacher at St Virgil’s College in Hobart, Julia’s family has a long history with the College with her grandfather, uncles and brothers all attending the College. Julia says “my father taught at the College for a short time as well. And I ended up marrying an old scholar of the College!”

After completing her Catholic education at St Mary’s College in Hobart, Julia commenced teaching for the Department of Education in Tasmania but aspired to be part of Catholic education.

“I’m doing God’s work through my day to day interactions. I can make a difference to the lives of others and I’m empowered to do so,” says Julia. “Every staff member within Catholic education is called to live out Gospel Values and this is particularly evident in the pastoral care of students and in the holistic education they receive.”

As a teacher of Home Economics at an all-boys College Julia has used this as a way to connect with students. “Boys love food! Therefore in my role, I have a great medium through which I can connect and build relationships with students and influence their learning and development in and outside of the classroom.”

A highlight of Julia’s time within Catholic education was the introduction of Vocational Education and Training into the colleges. “Catholic schools are meeting the needs of more students because of the introduction of VET in Catholic Colleges,” says Julia. “I meet former students regularly when I am out in the community, some with their own businesses, all gainfully employed within the industry they did their VET training which commenced at the College.”

Julia hopes that Catholic education remains responsive to the needs of those we serve: “I hope that we don’t continue to do what we’ve always done. We live in the now. Catholic education needs to continue to respond to the needs of Tasmanians in preparing students for their future.”

Thank you for your service Julia!

Liz Illingworth


Liz Illingworth’s journey as a Catholic educator was influenced by her time as a student at St Patrick’s College Launceston, “being a leader on Edmund Rice Camps was something I had loved doing in Years 10-12”, says Liz. “These camps along with my love of sport seemed to send me in the direction of Physical Education Teaching.”

Seeing others benefit from engaging in camps also ranks among Liz’s highlights of working in Catholic education: “seeing children overcomes fears and obstacles on school camps; seeing the joy in children when they achieve something they didn't think they could,” says Liz.

“In our role as educators, we get to play such a huge part in the lives of our students and with their families.”

It is the relationships Liz has developed with others in the Catholic education community that play a large part in her own life. “How lucky am I to get up each day and get to go to a school where I can be around children and other adults who love being around children,” says Liz. “I think the best part of working in Catholic Education is being around like-minded people. People who want to help our young people live their lives fully.”

Though the demands of working in education have changed over time, our Catholic school communities continue to provide enjoyment for educators. “I love the feel of community that my school provides,” says Liz. “[I] feel really lucky and privileged to work in Catholic Education and each day get to have an impact on and be impacted by our amazing young people.”

Thank you for your service Liz!

Luke McCormack


Working in Catholic education, Luke McCormack enjoys the sense of belonging to a team of committed staff. This sense of belonging is something which Luke also wants students to experience during their time in Catholic education. “I love every opportunity to bring a group of students together, where they feel valued and can thrive and grow,” says Luke.

In keeping with our commitment to provide student focused, Christ centred education, Luke is focused on the development of the whole person rather than just on outcomes, “so that our students can lead meaningful lives and bring meaning to the lives of others”.

Catholic education continues to strive to be a voice that promotes the simple message that we are ALL loved, no matter what,” says Luke.

One particular aspect of his work that has been a highlight for Luke is providing the opportunity for students to engage in ‘The Rite Journey’ and seeing the impact this program can have. “Our students experience a modern-day ‘rite of passage’ on their journey towards adulthood,” says Luke.

His hope is that every Year 9 student be able to experience this program. “I am very passionate about supporting other schools in planning and implementing this vital program.”

Thank you for your service Luke!