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Patji-Dawes 2021: Maria Lo Presti


Date: 20 May 2021

Maria Lo Presti received a 2021 Patji-Dawes Award in the Individual category for her dedication to language education and Italian teaching. A group of Maria’s current and previous students and colleagues nominated her for the award.

Maria is currently Head of Languages at Aquinas College in Perth, WA, but has been teaching Italian in Australia for over 30 years. During her long career, Maria has established a legacy as a respected teacher and colleague. Many recall Maria’s patience and the caring learning environment she fostered. Sonia, a former student who followed Maria’s footsteps to become an Italian teacher, called her a “silent mentor, inspiring me to be the best version of myself.”

Since joining Aquinas, Maria has made substantial impacts not only on her Italian students, but on the language faculty and the entire school. She noted that the support and guidance offered by Principal David McFadden and her other Aquinas colleagues are invaluable in assisting her to implement new projects and opportunities.

“Prior to 2017, only Chinese and Italian were taught,” her nominees noted. “Students are now able to study Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Ukrainian, French, Latin, and Indonesian.”

Beyond her teaching efforts, Maria has contributed to the Western Australian language curriculum. She also continues to improve and adapt her teaching practices to reach new students. She is currently undertaking studies in eLearning and is training to be a Virtual School Network teacher.

Maria’s nominees fondly recalled her motto — “Learn to mingle, be bilingual!” — as well as her efforts to coordinate Aquinas College’s Language Week, a celebration of global cultures that is attended by students from pre-primary to Year 12.

“Without her knowledge, passion and experience, the cultural and linguistic experience for Aquinians just simply would not be the same,” Anthony, a previous student, commented.
“We are incredibly fortunate to live in a diverse multicultural society in Australia…. We owe it to people like Maria who are passionate about enhancing this cultural and linguistic presence in our schools.”

 “The greatest gift bestowed on a child is education. Today teaching and learning has to have that global approach,” Maria said after receiving the award, reflecting that it will inspire her future teaching. “It is now about preparing students for jobs that haven’t yet been invented. This concept is simultaneously daunting and inspiring for a language teacher. While the focus of studying a language has never changed, it does provide you with the tools of success and the ability to be a global citizen.”


Three recipients were honoured in the 2021 Patji-Dawes Langauge Teaching Awards. The other 2021 recipients are Sharon Gregory for Community Outreach and the staff of the Graduate Certificate of Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage at Charles Sturt University in the Group category. For information on past years, click here.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University