Mastering education leadership
Silvana Rossetti’s passion for science took her to the head of the class and she spent many years honing her skills as a teacher. Now, with some help from a Master of Educational Leadership, she’s learning to lead as a newly minted high school principal.
When Silvana was in high school herself, she wasn’t sure teaching was going to be her path forward, but she knew for certain that science was where her interests lay.
“I know it’s a bit of cliché, but it was actually my biology teacher who really inspired me to consider becoming a science educator myself,” she said.
While Silvana is now responsible for overseeing more than 90 staff and 900 students as a high school principal, she said she absolutely loved her time in the classroom.
“But this is also the struggle – when you love what you do and you’re passionate about kids, education and schools, your sphere of influence grows. When you progress through your leadership journey and see it’s reliant upon others following your vision, the challenge then becomes working with others to bring your vision to life.”
Back to school
When Silvana first came to ACU she was working as a science coordinator and started with a postgraduate course in physics, before going on to complete a Graduate Certificate in Religious Education followed by a Master of Educational Leadership.
“I was running my school’s science department at the time, and I did wonder how I was going to manage it all. But I knew postgraduate qualifications were essential for moving into leadership roles.
And it definitely helped that I enjoyed studying. I found the readings really valuable, and I still use what I learnt in both courses today.
“For the master’s, what I enjoyed the most was listening to people who were already in leadership roles share what did and didn’t work for them. They really got me thinking, and that became genuinely useful for me when I started working as a principal. Initially, I had my own ideas about leadership, but to hear them talk about their approaches to leadership changed the way I thought about the role and broadened my perspective.
“The other thing that surprised me is returning to uni made me a more empathetic teacher. I discovered a lot about myself as a learner, which led to a greater understanding of what my students were going through because now I was the student.
After teaching for 20 years you can forget what it’s really like to be grappling with your learning! I think becoming a student made me a better teacher.”
Learning and leading
After working as an assistant and acting principal, Silvana moved into her first principal role in early 2021 at a Catholic all-boy’s secondary school in Sydney.
“I had first started thinking about leadership roles after conversations with mentors working in similar positions. At the time I was a very happy science coordinator and loved leading my department. When I was asked to consider doing a master’s, I thought why not? I enjoy studying and I thought learning about leadership, even if I didn’t become a principal, would still be good for my department.”
Silvana said the best part about being a principal is getting to work with the whole community.
“Right now, I’m getting to know everyone, listening to the community, and analysing the data – that’s the science nerd in me – so I can put programs in place or whatever’s required to address the gaps that the data reveals. It is important to acknowledge that people’s needs are ever-changing, and communities are transient. You have to make sure you are meeting the needs of your current community.”
Silvana’s advice to other teachers thinking about moving into leadership is to speak up.
“Chat to your principal. I’m really passionate about developing staff. I don’t know if I’d be where I am now if I hadn’t had those mentors reach out to me to say, ‘What are you thinking about doing? Have you considered…’.
“I try to listen to staff about their career plans and support them with opportunities. I’ve also encouraged staff to really think about online studying. I recommend ACU to them because it was so flexible for me and you can do it at your own speed.
“The other thing is it’s good to find a mentor who helps you see what it's really like to work in leadership. It’s a bit different to what you expect – my advice is get comfortable with being uncomfortable!
“Also, you’re only as good as the team you have around you – my master’s really drove this home. To be a good principal you've got to be open to listening to others, even when sometimes it can be a little bit hard to hear.”
If you’re interested in progressing your education career, find out more about the Graduate Certificate in Religious Education and Master of Educational Leadership.