Jodi Bennett is the new principal at Emu Plains Public School and draws on her education experience to bring out the best in her students.
As she watched her four siblings progressively drop out of school, Jodi Bennett became determined she would not follow in their footsteps.
“I grew up in Liverpool thinking I’ve got to do something with my life,” she says.
As one of the 130 new principals and relieving principals in NSW public education, Ms Bennett has certainly fulfilled that goal.
Ms Bennett says her parents were not overly engaged in her education but they were very excited when she progressed to Years 11 and 12.
“To now have their daughter as a principal of a school is a really big deal for them,” she says.
After graduating from Western Sydney University, Ms Bennett was immediately employed as a targeted graduate.
“I have never looked back and never questioned my career,” she says.
Her childhood struggle to chase a quality education remains a motivation.
“My experiences as a child have driven me to want the best for kids. The idea that every child deserves the right to an excellent education is at the core of what I try to do.”
She is passionate about supporting early career teachers to ensure they maintain their love of the profession and takes a strong instructional leadership philosophy to her new school.
It is an approach the Secretary of the Department of Education, Mark Scott, promoted at this week’s Principal Induction Conference where he told principals they were their school’s “most important teaching and learning asset”.
“Because I have a focus on instructional teaching I have been in the classrooms [but] I feel listening to Mark [Scott] I was given the green light to leave the office building and get into the classroom,” she says.
And while Ms Bennett is the first in her family to graduate from university, she will not be the last with her daughter, Renae, this year starting a teaching degree at the Australian Catholic University.
“Like I do with my students, I talked to my daughters about having high expectations and aiming high,” she says.
“I still wish my brothers and sisters had someone do that for them and their opportunities would have opened up.”