“We must expect higher results and, if we expect it, we will work at getting those higher results,” she says.
“All kids can reach our benchmarks and they can work beyond benchmarks if we give them the right opportunities.”
Wilson focuses first on attendance. Without it, there’s no way to learn.
“The parents consider me a bit of an attendance nag, which I take pride in,” she remarks.
“I found a lot of my students needed to improve their self-esteem. They needed to believe in themselves as learners and they needed to build some confidence. Creative arts can do that.”
Wilson says the community is enjoying a new sense of pride in its school. The school often hosts creative arts events with local artists.
Wilson says there is a sense of freedom and connection in small schools that she loves but notes her previous experience at large schools has served her well.
“As a principal you are always challenged within a small school because you have to be the master of everything,” she says.
As a farming community feeling the effects of the current drought, Moulamein knows a thing or two about challenges. Wilson says what she can do as a principal to ease the burden of farmers is to assure parents that their children can come to school and have a really great day.
The parents consider me a bit of an attendance nag, which I take pride in.
Moulamein Public School principal Jennie Wilson
“I can ease their burden by allowing them to come to a school that is doing a great job,” she says. “If they’re not worried about school, that is one less thing they need to worry about in their life.”
Wilson also looks out for the community by tapping into other resources, whether that’s connecting students or parents with mental health resources, or reaching out to St Vincent de Paul to organise food hampers.
Another challenge the school faces is geographical remoteness. For teachers, that means the prospect of driving many hours to access professional development. Wilson’s solution was to bring the learning to Moulamein. With expertise in literacy, she started offering training teachers from near and far.
“I started a course, I didn’t wait for a solution to come to me,” Wilson says. “I believe that while we work for a school, we also work for the department and I thought if I was going to put some professional learning in place for my teachers then why not invite other schools.”
The project has been a great success, with more than 60 teachers travelling to Moulamein each year and ongoing professional learning being offered all term.
Kristie swapped life as a lawyer for the freedom and adventure of travel writing 20 years ago and has never looked back. Sydney-born, her commute home is a little longer now that she is based in New York City.