Terrie’s story

What inspired you to become a principal and what was your journey to get there?

Looking back across my 25 years of experience, I see that at every stage of my career I have focused on creating the conditions in which children and young people can thrive—growing their sense of self and agency as learners and human beings. Principals have the scope to work in this way at scale—it is an awesome responsibility and a privilege to co-create the school’s culture and learning ecosystem with students, staff, and parents.

What aspect of being a leader do you find most rewarding?

The sense of purpose that imbues every moment of the day when you maintain a laser-like focus on the learning and well-being of children and young people. It is rewarding to consistently serve a community of educators, professional staff, and parents to provide the balance of joy, effort, and scaffolded challenge that students need to grow.

What’s worked for you in leading improvement in your context?

To listen with an open heart and mind to what individuals say—and also what they don’t say—so that I can appreciate their experiences of the school.

I’m constantly interested and intently gathering observations and diverse perspectives on the school’s culture and considering the artefacts that give life to its expression in the classrooms, behaviours, in the shared spaces, the programs and policies in action.

Finding out what matters to people and why it matters, testing this against the contemporary context and what we know, from the best educational research, works in learning and wellbeing, is essential to serving a community.

Any improvement journey begins with looking closely at data for the stories they reveal about the efficacy of a school’s current approaches to teaching, learning, and caring, ‘seeing the system’ as it is, before looking for the levers that may be key to improvement—a journey that is iterative and ongoing.

What are some of the ways you inspire a positive learning culture within your school?

I strive to be a role model for the vision we hold for all learners every day and in every interaction with students, staff, and parents. I am respectful, curious, hardworking, creative, brave, positive, and open to learning new things.

I also model kindness deliberately, as inspired by Dame Anita Roddick’s conceptualisation of kindness as “fierce, tenacious, unexpected, unconditional and sometimes positively revolutionary...these qualities give kindness its power to create change, to make things happen.”

I also endeavour to be calm and consistent. People need to trust that you are dependable and fair.

What opportunities do you see to enhance the quality of teaching and learning?

There is a lot of ‘noise’ in education at times—literally and figuratively speaking. Sometimes the noise is productive and sometimes it can be distracting. We rely on a growing evidence base about what works, and what doesn’t, in teaching and learning. As educators, we need to be discerning and relentless in evaluating our practice – as teachers, as leaders, as systems.

Working with Fullan’s and Sharratt’s 14 Parameters has been useful in enhancing the quality of teaching and learning, particularly #1 and #14.

Parameter 1: Shared Beliefs and Understandings is about setting the vision for teaching and learning in a school, in a classroom, and beyond. At CGGS, we have a shared vision for the CGGS Learner that expresses our beliefs and understanding about learning for students and staff. We hold high expectations of learners and are committed to providing high levels of support to ensure all can, and will, learn.

Parameter 14: Shared Responsibility and Accountability focuses the mind on the collective responsibility to be accountable for the success of our approaches to teaching and learning in realising the vision for our learners.

Do you have advice for others who are on the path to become a principal?

Don’t focus on becoming a principal, focus on your purpose, your development and growth in the role you currently hold. Do the very best for those you lead—in the classroom, in a faculty or team, or in the co-curricular frame. Look for opportunities to serve the vision of your school and challenge yourself to co-create value with, and for children and young people, your colleagues, and the broader community.

In doing this, you will create value for yourself and contribute to a hope-filled future. And you may be surprised by the opportunities that open up.


1. Roddick, A., (Ed). (2003). A Revolution in Kindness. Anita Roddick Books.

2. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (n.d.). Using improvement science to accelerate learning and address problems of practice. Retrieved from carnegiefoundation.org/our-ideas/

3. Sharratt, L. D. (2019). CLARITY. Corwin Press.

I endeavour to be calm and consistent. People need to trust that you are dependable and fair.
- Terrie Jones