Firbank Grammar’s head of junior school, Brighton, Cathie Ireland, knows how influential primary school teachers can be in the lives of young people – not just inside the classroom.
Cathie has often spoken at school assemblies throughout her career, imparting her wisdom to students.
“A parent once said to me, ‘Whatever you say in assembly becomes gospel’ and they asked me if I could, as part of my assembly spiel, mention practising the violin or eating vegetables,” Cathie says.
“I didn’t think that was quite appropriate,” she laughs.
It was a teacher at her own primary school – Huntingdale – who influenced Cathie to aim for a career in education.
“As a child I had a teacher who taught me in prep, year 1 and year 2. She was a real inspiration for me at the time,” Cathie says.
“She was passionate, she was artistic, I think I was a little bit of a teacher’s pet as well, a bit of a favourite.”
Cathie is one of the newest staff members at Firbank Grammar. She started as head of the junior school at Brighton after the Easter break (at the beginning of term two).
“I’d heard a lot of really good things about the culture, about the pastoral care and about the academic achievements [at Firbank],” Cathie says.
Throughout the interview process, she felt Firbank would become a second home.
“I think choosing a school is like choosing a home, you work out very quickly whether you can live there or not and I felt very comfortable when I first met the executive team and I first walked through the grounds as well. I felt very much at home,” she says.
“I’ve been in various positions over time, including head of middle schools, deputy head in secondary and primary schools. It was time for the next step in my journey.”
Cathie also taught for a time in the Royal Children’s Hospital’s education unit. There she learned a lot about the importance of community and friends.
“I worked on a program called Back on Track, which was a program supporting young people with cancer,” Cathie says.
“It was a privilege to work there. I looked around and there was so much hope within those rooms.
“There was a lot of tragedy over that time too. I think it was an absolute privilege to work with such amazing young people and amazing families.
“To hear children in hospital say, ‘Actually, Cathie, I want to be at school. I don’t want to do school work at hospital, I want to be with my friends’.
“It really showed to me how important the social connection for children is at all times. How important school is in forming community and friendships and social nuances as well.”
At Firbank Grammar, Cathie hopes she’ll be helping to build the strong school community and influence the young students at the junior school.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the ELC, which is something that’s new for me as well,” she says.
Good education is about great relationships, inspiring, making mistakes and learning from them and about children being happy.
3 things I have learnt
- Little people know more than we give them credit for.
- A community is incredibly important within schools. It’s complex but it’s an incredibly important part of what good schools are about.
- I’ve learnt that teachers have a marked influence on the outcomes for young people through their dedication and hard work.
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