Education and Arts

ACU women rule the school

If there’s one thing that outstanding educators agree on, it’s this: teaching is fundamentally about people. Whether they are in the classroom, leading a school or heading an educational sector, the educator’s goal is invariably what’s best for the people involved.

Tough times give great results for Fiona Godfrey

Fiona Godfrey completed her Graduate Diploma of Education at ACU in 1984 and is currently the first female principal of Radford College. For her, it was interactions with educators as a student that motivated her to assist others in achieving their potential.

‘I was inspired by my own teachers at school and felt that I had the demeanour and the capacity to be able to give something back to future generations that my own teachers had been able to provide to me.’

While the pinnacle of her career thus far has been leading two schools, Fiona acknowledges that it hasn’t always been a smooth run. Being the lone woman in her department and a young, female head of department presented challenges that Fiona successfully overcame.

‘I had to remain committed to the path that I thought was right and ignore the detractors. I was determined to get on with the job and prove the others wrong- I’m a stayer!’

The tough times were certainly worth it and the resilience and skills she developed set her up to achieve greatness down the line.

‘I am able to make a mark on the strategic direction of the organisation and can impart an educational philosophy that I really believe in.’

Sophie Fenton loves to learn

Sophie Fenton undertook a Diploma of Education at ACU in 2003 and today has founded and is deputy principal of Sandridge School, the first independent secular primary school set up exclusively by educators in Australia. She concurs with the view that education is primarily about relationships.

Learning

‘Education at its simplest is a fundamentally human experience and I want education to open my teachers and my students to their absolute potential as a human being.’ This belief is clearly reflected in the school’s motto: ‘no person is an island,’ which highlights the importance of connectedness and interaction in teaching and learning.

During the course of her career, Sophie has seen education change in significant ways. ‘Education has changed from focusing on the teacher to focusing on the learner, which has enabled students to access learning in a way that they previously couldn’t, but it’s almost gone too far; it needs to be an equal partnership between the student and the teacher.’ To explain her point, Sophie uses the analogy of education as a dance. ‘Both partners have to be actively involved and bring something to the dance.’

A passion for education from Audrey Brown

Audrey Brown’s passion is undoubtedly education. Having completed studies at ACU in religious education in the 1990s, theology in the 2000s, education law in 2011 and Master of Educational System Leadership in 2015, she has no intention of abandoning further study. ‘I’m guessing that the next step will be a doctorate. I’m a student; I love learning!’

This commitment to lifelong learning has served Audrey well in her goal of helping students achieve their very best. ‘Education is really about breaking open the potential and gifts in others and allowing them to flourish.’

While she feels that education has been affected by technological advancement and has become more focused on results, at its core it hasn’t changed.

‘In essence it’s still about every learner every day being stretched and encouraged to be the best they can be, so the core purpose for learning and for education remains the same.’

When asked to reflect on her proudest career moment to date, Audrey points to being responsible for leading 64 schools across the Diocese of Ballarat. This is, however, more than a feather in her cap. ‘My greatest achievement has been to develop a shared and proclaim a shared vision for education across this cluster of schools.’

Other than career success, the most obvious commonality between these former ACU women is their commitment to improving the educational and personal outcomes of the students in their care. Is there a loftier goal than that?

By Samantha Wasson (ACU Alumni).