The highlight for Simon Armstrong of his nine years at The Lakes College has not been the school’s impressive expansion, but the growth of its students and school culture.
Mr Armstrong will say goodbye at a farewell assembly today, before he takes up a new role at the University of Queensland’s Cromwell residential college.
“I’ve been in education for 37 years and I’ve seen what happens with our students from Prep to Year 12, but I never see what happens after Year 12,” he explains.
“This is my opportunity to make a difference to young adults. All my colleagues and principals from all schools … it will be really nice to see the fruits of our labour and to continue to help shape, mould and support those students as they go through that really challenging stage of their lives when they’re at tertiary study and working out what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives.”
When trying to identify a highlight from the past nine years, Mr Armstrong says there have been many but there’s one that stands out.
“Every single time a Year 12 student leaves the school – it’s bittersweet. You work so hard with them and you want them to be amazing graduates and they all are. Probably the highlight when I reflect more, is when they come back,” he explains.
“There’s this unannounced knock on the office door and there’s a graduate from three, four, five, six years ago who wants to share their story and has come back to thank you for the role you’ve played in moulding them into who they are.
“You can say the highlights have been the opening of the eight buildings that have been built under my leadership here – that could be a highlight – but it’s not about those resources. It’s about the human resources and the human touch and the connectivity that remains with students when they leave the college and staff as well.”
During Mr Armstrong’s 37 years in education, he’s taught in Dysart, at the Gold Coast, and in the UK and Townsville.
He cherishes the opportunity he has had to shape The Lakes College into the high-performing school it is today.
“It’s been an amazingly challenging nine years. The most memorable part of it for me is I was given the opportunity to really establish a school because when I arrived, it was so very young,” Mr Armstrong says.
The school had about 300 students when he arrived and now has almost 1000.
“When I arrived, we had Prep to Year 11. There were only two streams, some had only one stream, now we’re three streams from Prep all the way to Year 9,” he says.
“The growth has been incredible, but it’s about being able to set culture and set a tradition. I think that one of the things I’ve been most fortunate to have that opportunity and I think having a community that has also understood my vision that I had for a school.”
Mr Armstrong has also established a culture based on old-fashioned values of respect, pride and community.
“Wearing a uniform with pride and being proud to say you’re a graduate of The Lakes College or being proud that you’re a teacher at The Lakes College. That culture of belonging, wanting to be a part of an organisation that is really a high-performing organisation,” he says.
“I’ve never called it my school. This is a community. I’m very grateful that people have supported my vision and trusted me to take them on this journey. I hope it’s been a great journey for them.”
Mr Armstrong says he was especially proud to see this Year 12 cohort graduate after a challenging year.
“It’s been tough, but they all made a commitment when we went into lockdown, as a collective group, that instead of saying, ‘COVID is bad for us and is going to have an impact on us, we’re going to shape ourselves and use COVID as a way to shape us as we move forward’,” he says.
“They have had challenges all the way through, but they’ve never used that as an excuse. They’ve actually used it as a motivator to be the amazing students that they are. I’m so proud of them.”
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