Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools Dr Dan White went back to school last week and while he found that many things have changed since he was teaching in the classroom, the sheer exhilaration displayed by a student when they learn something for the first time still remains.
He said seeing the “lightbulb moment” when something simply makes sense is what drives him to continue to make long-term plans for the future of Catholic education.
Each year the “born teacher” takes over as principal for a week at a school within the Archdiocese to “stay in touch with the learning needs of young people and teachers alike”.
The principal is given the week off for professional development while they vacate the seat for him to keep warm.
Dr Dan selected LaSalle Catholic College at Bankstown for his week-long stay due to the large number of refugee students it now welcomes as well as the successful introduction of girls to the originally single-sex campus.
And he said he couldn’t be more delighted with the progress the school has made on both fronts.
“To be in education it is vital you stay in touch with the learning needs of young people and teachers alike which is why I ensure I spend time at the grassroots each year,” he said.
“It is my opportunity to meet with parents, teachers, students, priests and members of the school community to hear first-hand of the challenges they face day-to-day and I couldn’t be more proud of what I have found during my time here.
“The work they are doing with refugee students is incredible. In fact one of the students from Syria that I met will be one of my most lasting memories from the school.
“When she arrived in Year 7 last year she could hardly speak a word of English and today she told me she is excelling in the top science class.
“The gratitude and thanks she conveyed was really beautiful and displayed the work they are doing with these kids is working.
“It made me so proud to hear her story and serves as a fitting reminder of why I have spent the past 40 years as a teacher.
“LaSalle has recently become co-ed, with girls now in Years 7, 8 and 9 and seeing the respect the older boys have for them is so encouraging, it is a lovely environment that I really do miss.
“Although the only thing I don’t miss is the marking of the papers so I have made sure all assignments are due after I’ve gone.”
Dr Dan spent his time overseeing the general running of the school, as well as teaching a multi-media class, a maths class and the subject closest to his heart – religion.
He said his faith is at the centre of not only who he is but what he does and insists on holding spirituality classes for both teachers and students alike.
“Each year Pope Francis has a theme and this year’s is Be Not Afraid so I used this in my time at the school, to show them how to teach classes as a Catholic,” he said.
“I delve into the scriptures and unpack how God reassures us to be resilient and hopeful for our futures.
“Parents today have a yearning for their children to know God, they really do value the philosophy of being a Christian and for their children to have that same appreciation.
“I am very proud of what Sydney Catholic Schools is doing and the fabulous young faithful people it is producing.”