Teacher spotlight - Sarah Weston

From Day 1, Sarah has demonstrated a commitment to teaching, learning and leading in NSW public schools.

Following the completion of her initial teacher education degree, Sarah entered the workforce as a casual teacher. She then progressed into temporary employment and then landed a permanent teaching position, always holding onto the dream of one day becoming a permanent assistant principal.

Now, as an expert classroom teacher and experienced assistant principal, Sarah shares her journey, top tips and unpacks where it went ‘oh so right’ and perhaps ‘oh so wrong’, to get her to where she wanted to be.

What do you think assisted your journey as you moved from a casual teacher to an assistant principal?

I believe there were various contributing factors. I have always been incredibly ambitious and driven, whilst erring on the side of caution. This pairing enabled me to take risks, but do it in a respectful, professional and informed manner.

Surrounding myself with like-minded individuals meant understanding that one must perfect (and not be perfect at) the craft of teaching prior to guiding and leading others to do the same.

Looking back, what has been pivotal in your leadership journey that you didn’t realise at the time?

Moving schools, moving contexts, leading a range of people and having tough conversations were all incredibly challenging moments in time. Remembering my ‘why’, which looked to personal growth as a young person to better learning outcomes for students, was necessary to keep moving forward.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to step into leadership?

Find your own style of leading, embedded in the research and aligned with the evidence. I’ve prioritised leading by demonstrating, collaborating and upskilling - not by asking and requesting. I’ve always prioritised being organised and ready to ‘get my hands dirty’. I know how precious time can be in the teaching world, and to maximise minutes, by being prepared for meetings and all that is asked of me, can make all the difference.

What is something you have struggled to implement as a teacher or leader?

The notion of vulnerability in a leadership capacity. The overuse of the word has led to a loss in weight and authenticity. Rather than banging on about ‘letting your guard down’, I think it’s important to promote the idea that it’s simply important to just - be yourself.

What advice would you give to your first-year self?

Slow down. There is time. Be as present as possible, especially when teaching.

What’s something people who work in education often forget about education?

The best ideas come from the classroom. The best ideas are generated by classroom teachers.

Finally, what advice would you give to anyone in the education space?

You’ll progress further, get a lot more accomplished and build relationships if you remember that everyone is doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

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