AFTER 40 years in education, including seven at Santa Maria College, principal Ian Elder is well acquainted with the powerful influence teachers can have on the trajectory of their students’ lives.
Over that same period, he has also built a deep appreciation for the just-as-vital role senior educators play in the growth of their peers.
That passion was rewarded last week when Mr Elder was one of five WA principals to receive the John Laing Award for Professional Development from the Principals Australia Institute.
Incredibly, one of the other recipients – Comet Bay Primary School principal Matthew Osborne – was a former student of Mr Elder during his time at Willetton Senior High School.
“I taught Matthew in my early years of teaching and it was wonderful to meet up with him again after all these years,” Mr Elder said.
“As a principal, I work very hard to maintain my contact with the girls (at Santa Maria College). It is difficult with the ever-increasing administrative tasks but I know I am making an impact.”
That impact extends to Mr Elder’s staff, with no less than 20 of his former employees now occupying senior education roles as principals or deputy principals.
“One part of my job I am particularly passionate about is identifying, mentoring and coaching future leaders,” he said.
“It is most satisfying keeping in touch with former staff and watching their careers develop over time.
“When one of my staff gains a deputy principal or principal position at another school, it can be seen as a sad occasion for many members of the community (who feel like they are losing an outstanding staff member).
“It can be sad but my reply is that they will take the skills they have learned and demonstrated to their new school and make it a better place.”
A cornerstone of staff development at Santa Maria College is a pair of programs implemented by Mr Elder.
“Research indicates that most teachers feel there is a lack of feedback following their initial teacher training,” he said. “I wanted to develop a system that the staff owned, I did not want to replicate some models that operate using an ‘inspectorial’ system.
“As teachers, we have normalised observing each other teaching, we have built open teaching spaces and use student feedback questionnaires that all teachers read and reflect upon. “This program is titled GROW! and senior staff undergo a similar program titled LEAD!.”