John Hambly may be old school in the way he treats his students like they are his own children.
But the Warilla High School principal was also recently recognised by the NSW Department of Education for embracing and encouraging cutting-edge technology.
The highly experienced school principal and former School Education Director was presented the Secretary’s Award for Excellent Service.
At the same awards ceremony, fellow Warilla HS teacher Renee Pettit was presented the Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which considers professional knowledge, practice and engagement.
Mrs Pettit, the head teaching and learning teacher has led a revival of professional learning that is targeted and focussed.
“Our awards are based on a collaboration, and a collective efficacy and a school climate that has kids front and centre. And, improved learning outcomes is the benchmark for what we do,” Mr Hambly said.
“It is a really sobering thing to have kids entrusted to you by their parents to prepare them for a 21st century context which is fundamentally different from anything they or their parents experienced.
“And, we know from the research that these kids will change occupations up to 12 times in their lifetime.
“We know that they will be dealing with technology that hasn’t been invented yet. We know that they are going to be asked to be collaborators, to be problem solvers, to be creative, to be flexible.
“So how are we teaching those things. This is where we really press the boundaries and develop innovative currciulums that include robotics and drone technology
“We have completely revamped 50 year old learning spaces so that they are cutting edge 21st in nature.
“This has had a brilliant and profound impact on teachers in terms of how they go about their business and it has impacted on the pedagogy they employ.”
Mr Hambly praised Mrs Pettit for developing a professional learning structure at Warilla HS that was “second to none”.
“The traditional learning spaces with the desk and the class configuration is gone,” he said.
“We have central conference areas. We have breakout areas. Blackboards are gone. We have digital projectors either end.
“Kids are elaborating, there are vertical learning spaces and visible learning is really central to what we do.
“Renee has been very seminal in all of this…..she has turned the culture in this place in terms of how we go about our business and about what’s important to bring out the best in our students.”
Mrs Pettit was just as glowing in her praise for her principal, who she credited for instilling a culture that enabled teachers to provide conditions for their students to flourish.
“I’ve never worked in a school where teachers are supported unconditionally and everyone is supported,” she said.
“Every single person that walks through the gates of this school, including over 1300 kids feels valued and supported and I can vouch for that from my end.”
The extremely proud and passionate advocates of Warilla HS, were also in unison in their belief their “full-service” school was excellent.
“If the kids don’t get it at home, they get it here. We connect them, feed them, put them in uniform, we will support them financially if we need to,” Mr Hambly said.
And, it’s not only the teachers and students who recognise the good work being done at Warilla HS.
“I turn away up to 130 non local area applications every year. We have people who are actually changing addresses to get a slice of the action here at Warilla HS,” Mr Hambly said.