Journey to leadership

“Studying the MEd at Victoria made me an authentic and knowledgeable leader.” That’s just one of the many benefits Shirley Porteous, Principal of Wellington’s Greenacres School, has realised from her studies.

Shirley Porteous image

Shirley says that the last five to ten years have seen education become a far more challenging profession. “There are very high expectations and our practice is constantly being challenged. It’s expected that we will be upskilling to keep up with the ever-changing requirements of being a teacher.”

Shirley was in a number of leadership roles while completing her MEd and says one of the benefits is that you can go at your own pace. After a short break from study she picked it up again and continued to study the year before she became principal at Greenacres, a Tawa-based primary school teaching years 1-6.  “I needed to ensure my knowledge was up to date and wanted to have a deeper understanding of education in New Zealand. Greenacres was ready for a change in direction and I was appointed to lead a new vision for the school.”

But you can’t have a vision if it’s not based on anything. “If you know what you’re talking about you can effectively lead others to help increase their knowledge,” says Shirley. “The teaching staff at Greenacres know that I am an ongoing learner. I’m able to look at all perspectives, beyond just the Ministry guidelines, and lead the school effectively.” An example of this is Shirley’s introduction of Inspiration Fridays at Greenacres. The programme provides students with opportunities for choice and creativity beyond the traditional curriculum. Students are offered the opportunity to take part in a diverse range of topics that may inspire them to explore these areas further in the future.

Shirley’s own enthusiasm for higher education has given her a passion for growing other leaders and professional development is now a key focus at Greenacres. “Staff need to be lifelong learners just as much as the kids do,” she says.