27 June, 2014, Merri Creek Primary, Melbourne, Australia
It's a pleasure for me on behalf of the staff here at Merri Creek Primary School to say a few words about our retiring principal and school leader Dionne Wright.
Dionne has committed her working life to the education of children and over the last 30 years she's worked tirelessly to guide and gently fashion Merri Creek into an environment that reflects her social views of acceptance, equality and sustainability while valuing creativity and rigorous learning.
Dionne has been a proud member of her union throughout her career and always understood the importance of consultation with and respect for her work force. Trusting teachers and always backing their judgement was a strength of her management style. She was comfortable embracing diverse approaches to teaching and respectful of different personalities. Her willingness to trust her staff and be flexible whenever there was scope to do so has made this place a hard one to leave.
Dionne shared in her teacher’s triumphs and listened to their challenges, she was always willing to advise and support along the way. I experienced in my first year of teaching a moment of encouragement from Dionne that undoubtedly bolstered my self belief in the fledgling months of a new career. Can you just imagine for a second the sheer terror that comes with writing your first reports and handing them to your principal to be proofread? First year graduate teachers are only provisionally registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and as she returned my reports she quietly commented “any teacher who can write reports of this quality deserves to be fully registered immediately”. Far from being a report writing prodigy I suspect that the experienced teacher in Dionne saw positive reinforcement as the most appropriate approach. Needless to say her strategy worked and I soared home that evening.
A friend who is a criminal lawyer once gave me some insight into the process of jury selection and spoke about sections of the public regularly dismissed when considering potential jurors. Teachers, nurses and social workers he said were usually seen as too invested in people, too empathetic and too instinctive to be considered reliably unaffected.
Dionne wore these instincts proudly to work every day. The procession of children getting extra learning support in her office of a morning, conversations with staff and parents about travel, architecture, art, cinema, food and politics as well as discussions about new approaches to teaching and learning, she was a leader who was interested and interesting.
Out towards the Melbourne Airport there’s a place where champion racehorses are retired. Melbourne Cup winners such as Might & Power and Rogan Josh are two of the thoroughbreds spending their long days in those quiet paddocks.
I wish for you Dionne the staff room equivalent where the temperature control is perfectly set all year round, the wireless connection is never interrupted and the prep students only come to the door to tell you how they’ve used self regulation and their negotiation skills to extinguish simmering conflicts… and of course there’s an endless supply of chocolate and Degani cakes.
Good luck Dionne for what lies ahead and a sincere thank you for what has come before.