Inspiring teacher driving change at CQ boarding school
FOR The Cathedral College’s Ron Armstrong, teaching is so much more than imparting knowledge.
“You’re looking to grow a person holistically; socially, emotionally and intellectually,” he said.
“You often hear the cliché that teaching is a vocation - but it really is.
“It’s a heart-warming job, it’s a job for the soul. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of and have always taken great joy in.
“I believe pastoral care has been my strength through my whole career and what I love about boarding is it’s incredibly pastoral.
“I strongly believe that working in a partnership with our parents, particularly in boarding, but also in school is paramount to succeeding as a teacher, carer and administrator. It is these partnerships that provide students with the opportunities to succeed.”
It’s that passion and professionalism that have The Cathedral College Assistant Principal: Boarding in the running for a Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX award.
Mr Armstrong, as well as Clermont State High School’s Carly Bell, are one of five finalists in the Outstanding Contribution to School Community category.
Since taking on the role of Assistant Principal: Boarding in 2009, Mr Armstrong has increased TCC’s boarding numbers from 120 students to full capacity at 190, with a waiting list.
During refurbishments to the school’s boarding facilities six years ago, he lobbied hard for additional space.
As a result, the Years 7 and 8 students share rooms to support each other transitioning to boarding, and from Year 9 each boarder has their own room, which is quite exceptional in a boarding school.
Mr Armstrong’s leadership came to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He and his 40-strong team - which includes his wife Maxene, who is head of girls boarding - worked tirelessly to ensure TCC was one of the first schools in the state able to re-open to a full complement of students on site.
During the period of remote learning, he negotiated the re-allocation of boarding staff to on-campus roles to maintain their working hours.
Mr Armstrong said while it was wonderful to be nominated for the award – and he thanked his co-worker Rachele Belz for doing it - he actually felt a little embarrassed by it.
“It’s not something that sits well with me. It’s not a job we do for this, it’s a job we do because we love doing it,” he said.
“But it is really lovely recognition. I’ve spent most of my working life as a teacher, so this is very humbling.”
Mr Armstrong was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died when he was just three.
He grew up on a dairy farm outside Rockhampton and went to primary school at Milman.
He was then enrolled at North Rockhampton High, which he initially found “quite overwhelming as a country kid”.
It was in Year 11, he encountered teacher Dianne Goosen who inspired him to pursue a career in education.
His first appointment was to Ipswich State High School in 1982, and he would go on to teach at Corinda State High, Rockhampton State High and St Brendan’s College.
After a three-year stint as a senior education officer at the then Rockhampton Correctional Centre, he spent two years running a private school in Papua New Guinea, which was owned by the country’s leading chicken farmer.
Mr Armstrong has also been involved in a host of extra-curricular activities.
He played rugby league and was a talented athlete. For 25 years he has taught martial arts, once running his own schools, and holds black belts in karate and taekwondo and is a qualified Muay Thai instructor, climbing instructor and archery instructor.
He firmly believes the diversity of experiences in his life assist him in every facet of teaching.
“We have to be their initial first support. I don’t think you can do that without having some experiences and being able to empathise,” Mr Armstrong said.
“My life is about stories and to me that’s a lot of what teaching is about.
“Every kid who comes into your classroom has a different story and it’s just getting to hear and know those stories that makes a difference.”
The winners of the TEACHX Awards will be announced on October 29, the eve of World Teachers’ Day in Australia.