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One of the core elements of Springboard Trust’s work with principals is making sure everyone is heard.
From stakeholder engagement to distributed leadership, empowering everyone in a school environment to influence and lead on their own terms is key to positively impacting student outcomes.
For Suzi De Gouveia, principal at St Teresa’s School in Riccarton, this shone through in the most remarkable of ways.
The value of visibility
St Teresa’s is a Catholic school at its heart – but as Suzi explains, it is also much more.
“You walk in, and you see we’re a Catholic school – that’s very visible. But we’re also an incredibly diverse school, with 19 different cultures represented in our students.”
“The Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme massively helped me see this as a focal point. It helped me wade through the data, find our priorities – and one of the biggest was cultural responsiveness.”
This has since become a key goal for Suzi and her team, with four projects underway to achieve it.
“We want to make sure that everyone can walk into St Teresa’s and see themselves represented – that they can feel welcome no matter who they are.”
Working with students and their families, an incredible amount of work is going on. Students and their parents are creating patterns from every culture in the school to be put on display. One parent is creating three Māori carvings to sit at the school, representing faith, hope and love. A central display in the foyer has contributions from the community, including a handmade Ethiopian handbag that a parent’s relative wore to their wedding.
On top of this, Suzi herself will embody the breadth of diversity at St Teresa’s through a custom-made outfit.
“Once it’s done, it will have something from everyone. South African beadwork, student art – some of my Tongan students have reserved some space on the back, because they want to put their strength behind me.”
Upon completion of this work, Suzi is certain that everybody will feel welcome – a perfect partnership of the school’s Catholic values and utter conviction of their strength in diversity.
“This focus – it all came through the programme. My Capacity Partner [Elaine] was sensational at challenging my thinking, having me step outside my comfort zone and really wade through the mud of data to work out what mattered most in the student voice.”