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Meet the leaders shaping our school’s vision and success

Whether hailing from leading independent schools in Melbourne to drawing on international experience to bring to the classrooms that guide our students, our leaders are raising the bar in Darwin, and the Northern Territory!

NEWS 27 June 2024

Every day, Haileybury Rendall School’s (HRS) leaders make decisions based on the best interests of students, staff and on the future growth and sustainability of HRS. We recently sat down with those leaders to discover what they do and what inspires them.

Andrew McGregor, Principal

Andrew joined Haileybury Rendall School in 2021 and since that time he has taken the school on a journey of growth and progression. Under his watch, HRS has won a series of national Australian Education Awards including Boarding School of the Year and Regional School of the Year.

What are some of the things about HRS that you are most proud of?

“We have an unwavering commitment to helping our students develop the life skills that are essential for living and working successfully. The wellbeing of our students is at the forefront of everything that we do, and we want all our students to leave school excited and prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Our academic and pastoral programs build skills in resilience, creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking. I’m very proud of the school we’ve created. HRS brings together all the best elements of contemporary global education so our students can be the very best version of themselves.”

HRS is a Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Education — something you have been very committed to. Why is this important for the school?

“We want to give our Indigenous students the opportunity to walk in two wonderful worlds. One world recognises the First Nation’s community and the rich history that is so important to our Indigenous students and that they are strongly connected to. The other wonderful world is centred around our School, where we help them work and thrive in a metropolitan setting. At HRS, those students can go on after school to be great success stories. They go to university or go back to their communities to work and become regarded as the next generation of leaders.”

Felicity Pearson, Deputy Principal

Felicity joined HRS in 2021 and has been influential in supporting HRS’s growth and development. Her role is diverse and in a typical day she’ll manage everything from child safety, international partnerships and marketing to professional learning for staff and organising school and community events.

What initiatives are you most passionate about implementing to enhance the lives of students at HRS?

“Working closely with colleagues to embed the National Child Safe Principles across the School has been rewarding this year. The school musical is always a joyous project, too, largely due to noticing how much students grow in confidence and ability through that experience. However, my favourite responsibility is still my teaching. I enjoy challenging myself to engage and, hopefully, inspire students to enjoy their own learning journey.”

How do you connect with parents and the wider school community to create a strong and supportive network for students?

“Our Parents and Friends Committee has a cross-section of people from across the School who provide valuable feedback and who work to support HRS to achieve a variety of initiatives. Our publications and social media posts provide an instant window into the School, and we love it when our community comes together to support and celebrate House events, special events, awards assemblies, or simply to relax and enjoy the company of other families at movie nights and our parent cocktail evenings.”

How do you like to spend your time away from school?

“I try to find some balance so I can be an attentive parent to my own children. I like to go on a walk and listen to an excellent podcast and I enjoy Pilates and yoga. When I can, I paddle board and spend time in nature.”

Dennis Nowak, Deputy Principal – Teaching and Learning

Dennis joined HRS in 2021 as Head of Boarding before taking up his current role last year. Dennis, who was initially inspired to become a teacher by his Year 12 Geology teacher, decided to settle in Darwin to continue to work with Andrew McGregor, whom he previously worked with in Melbourne. As well as his Deputy Principal responsibilities, Dennis still enjoys being in the classroom and teaches Global Politics and History.

What does a typical day look like for you?

“I teach two classes and love these parts of my day! Learning is our core business, and we are all teachers first, no matter our roles. Working with students gives me a buzz and I still can’t believe that I get paid to introduce topics like World War II or ethics in Politics to young people – it’s a privilege. Every day is different in my role – I work with an inspiring group of Learning Leaders and much of my time is spent on working on projects that will continue to improve our school. What the future holds for our school and community is exciting.”

How do you support quality teaching and learning in the classroom?

“There are so many things we do at HRS in this space, but I think always modelling best practice is important, and so is a targeted professional learning program. John Hattie, a professor of education, says every school has ‘pockets of excellence’ and one of my key roles is to bring those pockets at HRS to the forefront and to provide teachers with a platform to share their expertise.”

How do you spend your time away from school?

“I’m an avid brewer! For the Term 2 break I’m travelling to the southern parts of the USA to explore different brewing techniques and I’ll also be watching a lot of baseball and listening to some great music in Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. I have two boys who attend the Junior School and I love taking them to sport and watching them have fun.”

Harry Hildebrand, Director of Boarding

Before joining HRS at the end of 2023, Harry lived and worked in Peru where he founded and led a program aimed at developing the leadership skills of young people and increasing their awareness of their place in the wider world. Harry also collaborated with Indigenous communities in the Amazon jungle and Andes – experience he now uses as Director of Boarding at HRS.

What inspired you to work overseas?

“Many years ago, I taught at a private school in Melbourne and at the end of 1995, around the time of graduation, I thought to myself ‘My time here has been awesome and I’ve got a great job but these kids would probably have done pretty well whether they’d had me as a teacher or not’. I realised I wanted to teach in a place where young people didn’t have as many opportunities and where I could make an impact. So, I left Australia, hitched boat rides all the way up the Amazon, got to Peru and spent the next 26 years working in schools in remoter parts of the country.”

What were highlights of your time in Peru teaching young people?

“During one project I took 250 kids away for the weekend to the Andes and we built 15 homes for people who had been living in straw huts. During the last eight years or so of my time in Peru, I created an outdoor program that sees young people live with Indigenous communities in the Andes and that has been incredible. Part of my role in Peru was to go to local communities and to build relationships with them so we could work together.”

What tempted you back to Australia and to HRS?

“I saw the amazing efforts that HRS is making to integrate Indigenous students into the school. I felt that with the tools I had in my kit as a result of my experience overseas that I could have some positive input.”