Redefining student success

Emma LindsayEmma Lindsay is Deputy Principal at Sarah Redfern High School. She was a Cohort 2017 Fellow of Teach For Australia’s Teach To Lead program, a professional development program for teachers with formal leadership roles in schools serving low socio-economic communities.

I started teaching in 2009, when I had a big career change – I used to be a publicity manager at a record company. I’m currently in a Deputy Principal position but I have this really long job title – Manager Learning Design Innovation – which essentially means that I look after all current staff professional learning, beginning teachers, the technology pedagogy, senior students, among other responsibilities.

When I came into teaching, I knew that I wanted to work in a hard-to-staff school, in a disadvantaged area. That was one of the things that really appealed to me about Teach To Lead: it’s a leadership program focused on developing leadership within those that were most committed to working with our most needy communities.

Through my Impact Initiative (a Teach To Lead component in which each participant designs and implements a long-term project with the aim of raising student achievement) I looked to redefine what success is in terms of post school pathways through strengthening the perception and calibre of our transition stream, which is focused on employment and training post high school. For our school, this meant valuing success outside of attending university. A lot of teachers only really value those statistics, so internally we had a lot of marketing around the school and constantly sharing success stories of students who have transitioned into apprenticeships or traineeships, and sharing stories of those students five years down the track.

Student working in science class

I believe in empowering staff and students because that shared vision will not translate to successful outcomes to the kids if it’s a one-person show.

Principals and senior leadership/management definitely need to be at the chalkface with their colleagues – they have to lead by example. You can’t just delegate everything, you need to be able to live and breathe it and generally talk about it and form the relationships with the staff and the kids so that they build trust at all levels.

This is my tenth year at Sarah Redfern and I feel so connected to the kids and community. I’m at the point where in ten years I would love to be the principal of my own school but it would definitely have to be in a low SES area. I would love to go regional in New South Wales.

It’s the stories in low SES communities that really draw me in. You can actually see the impact. It’s so exciting when you bump into former students with their families and they’re telling you about what they doing for work. With the Impact Initiative that I worked on, it spoke to my heart because we are talking about life beyond school – teachers get so obsessed with the 13 years that students spend in our institution – but life is so much more than the bricks and mortar. If you can impact the way these students raise their own children; be a good person and give back, then that’s the only way that we can break cycles.

How could you work anywhere else?


This story was originally published as part of Teach For Australia’s Ten Year Anniversary timeline. Explore the timeline here. You can find Emma Lindsay’s story in the year 2017, as well as many more stories and milestones throughout the years.

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