Message from the Principal
Dear Parents, Caregivers and Friends,
Thank you to everyone who attended our Celebration of Excellence on Wednesday night, I’m sure you will agree it was a wonderful event. I thought I would share my speech for those of you who were unable to attend.
Good Evening our Sisters of the Sacred Heart, our Board Members, our parents, our students and our staff.
Good evening to our Stuartholme community.
We are here to celebrate our expression of excellence.
In our Sacred Heart Education, we advocate the development of the whole person; consequently, we will be acknowledging and celebrating our girls’ gifts across a diverse range of areas, their contributions to our community and their hard work.
I thought since it is my first year as part of the Stuartholme community, I might share what I think is exceptional about Stuartholme.
What we should, as a community, celebrate. Much of which is not measurable, yet crucial to who we are. What sets us apart? What is distinct about Stuartholme:
• Our relationships
• Our sense of community
• Personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom.
In terms of relationships and our sense of community:
Stuartholme has the two most essential ingredients for an excellent school: beautiful, animated girls – hungry to learn and grow; and passionate, dedicated teachers, also eager to continue to learn and grow.
The relationships between our girls and our teachers is evident at every turn throughout the school. The nature of their conversations, their mutual respect and the way they humour one another. The Sacred Heart ethos of educating the whole person is the basis of these relationships. It is visible in the layers of care for our girls in every aspect of the school: our daily interactions, the genuine relationships in the classroom, our system of rotating Leaders of Student Wellbeing and Teacher Mentors, and our counsellors, our Health Centre, case management systems etc.
Students own their teachers. And teachers own their students. It is an amazing and inspiring atmosphere in which to work each day.
When a community innately believes in itself, they are warm and welcoming and confident in caring for new comers. When I flew into Stuartholme, I was gently caught, warmly embraced and tenderly place in amongst the community. Never in my life have I had such a ‘soft’ landing. My staff may think my start was not easy, with building programs, industrial action and with the passing of John Fitzgerald, our Business Manager. However, the Stuartholme community could not have been more welcoming or more kind.
Last week, I asked a gentleman who was working in the school, what quality of the school did he find distinct. His simple yet adamant response was “it is such a happy place”. Stuartholme is a wonderful community where everyone belongs.
A further expression of our strong sense of community is in our kind, diverse and inclusive Boarding House. 150 girls live at Stuartholme. Every interaction I experience is friendly and open-hearted. It is delightful to share this space with such joyful young souls.
What we have in common with other Catholic schools are the dimensions of our Catholic faith and social justice, and teaching and learning. However, how we express these aspects has distinct qualities.
Our Catholic faith is open hearted and our liturgies are designed to inspire our young woman, not to indoctrinate dogma, nor to impress local clergy, but to ensure our girls’ personal integrity is moulded around the love of Jesus. The Christian bottom line – they know to be good to one another – some Catholic contexts can cloud this simple truth. At Stuartholme our expression of our faith through liturgy, prayer and relationships is inspiring and nurturing of the spirit. Our expression of our social justice, is concrete and very real. Stuartholme girls invest their time in generous ways, like visiting retirement homes, working with the homeless with Orange Sky Laundry and Rosies. And helping refugee students who struggle with their school work at local State High Schools in a Homework Club. Time is our most precious gift. Our faith and personal beliefs in being good to others is in our action and in our generosity of time and spirit.
In terms of our teaching and learning, I do not know who hungers more for knowledge and understanding – the teachers or the students. There is an intellectual quality of the teachers, that I have not experience so distinctly at other schools. They are passionate and well-read in their professional practice. They are keen to engage in professional learning and to share new ideas. Our teachers’ collegiality is foundational to our sense of community and our sense of belonging. This is evident in our long standing staff members.
For the students – it is cool at Stuartholme to try your best, to give it a go, to strive. This is not the norm in adolescent girls in Australia. Australian research shows many teenage girls opt out, hang back, make excuses. Stuartholme students are on the front foot, leaning in. Developing and sharing their gifts. They make mistakes and learn from them, in the safest environment we can provide. At our Year 9 Camp, a highly experienced facilitator of an outdoor education program stated Stuartholme girls are not prissy they “roll up their sleeves and muck in”. Our girls have tenacity. I had heard Stuartholme girls were not backwards in coming forward. Our girls are generous spirited, animated, tenacious and capable. And my personal wish for them is for each to believe in their worth. To believe in themselves as they move out into the world.
This year we celebrate the 5th Goal of the five Sacred Heart Goals: ‘Personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom’. And tonight we acknowledge how our girls have grown and flourished. This goal is distinctive from other Catholic values. Personal growth indicates we are ever evolving, always striving to improve, a work in progress, self-reflective and self-aware. The powerful oxymoron of ‘wise freedom’, I found intriguing. Freedom to me had connotations of wildness, no responsibility, no degree of care.
My school motto was ‘Seek Wisdom’ – I have endeavoured to do this throughout the challenges of my life. If our girls aspire to wise freedom, they will have choice, their discernment as they move through their life challenges will be empowered. If our girls continue to be self-reflective, lifelong learners, to hunger to grow and learn – their lives will be rich with opportunities, alternatives and rewards.
Stuartholme embodies the atmosphere where personal growth leads to wise freedom. One of many moments that has touched my heart this year was to interview six Year 12 students who were nominated by their peers for the Cor Unum Shield. I sat in awe listening to these young women share how they think Stuartholme has contributed to who they have become. Their personal integrity, their service leadership, their desire to work in a field which will make a difference, their page long list of all they had offered to their school community in their time at Stuartholme, their humility and their loyalty and love of their school overwhelmed me. While each of these graduating ladies highly valued their time at Stuartholme, what they take away is a strong sense of self and a profound knowledge that they are cherished and able to contribute to their world. If this is what we produce, in partnership with our parents – I am honoured to be part of this chapter of Stuartholme.
What do I think is exceptional about Stuartholme? Our relationships, our sense of community and our 5th Goal ‘Personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom’.
What we should, as a community, celebrate? Our girls!
Kind regards and God bless,