A true visionary in Australian education

McDiarmid has been named one of Australia’s Most Influential Educators for 2022 for her work in keeping students focused and engaged in their learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Brett: [00:00:13] Hello and welcome to all of our viewers. My name is Brett Henebery, editor at The Educator. And joining me today is Kerrie McDiarmid, who was the principal at St Clare's College in Waverly. Over the past 18 months, Kerrie has transformed the college into a lighthouse school for the Sydney Catholic School system and has overseen a number of programs that kept students focused and engaged in the classroom during the pandemic. In recognition of the great work she's been doing. Kerrie has just been named one of Australia's most influential educators for 2022. Kerrie, first of all, congratulations on being named among Australia's most influential educators. But what is a big point of difference in your leadership approach? 

Kerrie: [00:00:52] I'm really humbled to receive this particular recognition, and I think an inclusive, open door policy is something that I have adopted at the college, but really one where we encourage staff to be critical and creative thinkers in the same way that we encourage our students to be and really coming to us with ideas and innovation that they want to actually try out in the classroom and across the whole school context. So it's a leadership approach that really is inclusive, but also making sure that our transformational aspirations are those that support staff in their leadership journey as well. 

Brett: [00:01:41] Thanks very much for that, Kerrie. Now, can you tell us a little bit about some of the programs you've implemented and executed at the college and perhaps speak to the success and results? 

Kerrie: [00:01:51] Yes. Look, we've been embarking on an innovation journey over the last few years, but really, we have a group of really dedicated teachers who are future focused. And so this is the lens that we really adopt. This notion of authentic, future focused, innovative learning is something that we've been advocating. And really what we're aiming to do is to ensure that the students are actually working on all those soft skills that they need to be successful outside the classroom. So we are engaging in an integrated learning approach. So we've unpicked a number of our stage four subjects so that they become integrated projects that the girls engage in that really have that real life authentic lens as a final product. When girls move out beyond the classroom, they don't work in silos. And so it's really important that they engage in learning in the school context that reflects what their real world experience is going to be. So our girls will be engaging in projects in year seven and year eight. So for two terms of the year, they have a really exciting opportunity to create products, to solve real world problems, to engage with industry experts, to work with tertiary institutions and really see where the learning that takes place in these contexts can lead them beyond the school gates. So it really is fostering that transitional focus for students. So what is this lead to in stage five and then stage six and then beyond the school gate? How is it that this is going to allow me and afford me an understanding of what I can be post-school? So it's really aspirational for the girls as well as engaging and highly authentic. 

Brett: [00:03:43] Now, Kerrie, I understand the college is just developing a space that will be an innovation hub of sorts for the community. Can you tell us a little bit more about this? 

Kerrie: [00:03:50] Yeah, we're really excited that the Lumos project is going to be played out this year. So really what we're looking at is a a space that looks like nothing else that we see in the educational context in our area. This space is going to be flexible. It is not going to look like a school environment per say. It is going to be really that space that reflects the nexus between school, the world of work industry and tertiary institutions. So the space itself is going to live out the design thinking process. So it's where students can get together to ideate, to collaborate, to showcase their learning and their projects and their products. And it's really going to be a space that allows girls to work with industry, to work with tertiary institutions for an enables us to expand some of those really important partnerships that we've got. And it's going to be a space that is going to allow us to really expand our entrepreneurial learning platform. We're hoping to begin a startup hub out of that space. It's really going to engage the community as well as girls and allow them to really take the things that they design, particularly in particularly in that stage four and then into stage five space to another level that we've already got girls who are taking some of their products to market. And so it's going to allow a space, a very designated space, and an opportunity for the girls to engage in that type of type of learning moving forward. 

Brett: [00:05:32] And and what a very exciting space that is. Big things happening there at the school in 2022. 

Kerrie: [00:05:39] Absolutely. Absolutely. We're very excited for that prospect. 

Brett: [00:05:43] Kerrie, Thanks for that. And there is also some big opportunities to open up for stage two, stage five electives for the girls. Can you tell us more about that? 

Kerrie: [00:05:52] Yeah, absolutely. Look, stage five is an area where we see there's a need for increased attention in terms of student engagement. And we have these amazing projects that happen in stage four for the girls, and we're looking to expand opportunities into stage five. So our aim is to really unpick some of those traditional electives that we see in the stage five space and allow both staff and students to think really creatively about what potential exists in stage five. And so for us to create bespoke units of work that really reflects out our lens on future focus learning and authentic learning. So I'm very excited. The staff are already coming up with some very innovative approaches to what stage five could look like. And so that is something that we're working on this year for implementation next year. 

Brett: [00:06:47] Fantastic. Well, it's another big year ahead from the sounds of it. 

Kerrie: [00:06:50] Yes. Thank you. We're very excited. 

Brett: [00:06:53] Kerrie, thank you so much for putting aside the time for us today. And congratulations again on such a well-deserved award. 

Kerrie: [00:06:59] Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. 

Brett: [00:07:01] And also, I want to say a big thank you to our viewers for joining us. We'll see you again next time.