Darren Lawson’s latest role as the new principal at ACC Moreton is another chapter in a colourful career. He has been an Olympic cyclist, travelled extensively and worked in the business sector before hitting his straps as educator.
Rather than actively pursuing leadership roles, his progression from teacher to principal has been more about personality and aptitude.
Lawson began his education career as an Economics teacher.
“I came to teaching in my late twenties after work in banks and time as a full-time cyclist. I worked in state and private school systems before ending up overseas where I was asked to be Principal at an International K-12 Christian school in Central Asia. Upon return to Australia, I ended up in the classroom for a few years again before a Principal position opened up and was offered. I was in that role for just under eight years before starting this position.
“I had done a Masters degree, but the career transitions were not as a result of actively seeking positions of further responsibility. After my first role as a Principal I did enjoy it and found I seemed to have the skills, work and life experiences needed for the role, and so then did seek similar roles after that. I think you need to just do what you are doing well first before seeking further roles.”
He describes his management style as ‘consultative’, saying of a principalship as opposed to a teaching role that, “You have a larger area you need to take responsibility for. This is especially true in regards to people, programs and systems.”
“Coming to a new school involves a lot of learning about the people firstly, but also the processes, systems, and the unique context and environment of the school,” he says.
Prior to ACC Lawson headed up Heights College, a K-12 Christian school in Rockhampton, there are obvious differences but much of what he experienced there applies to ACCC Moreton.
“It's a different school, a different demographic and it's a systemic school which is also different. However, many of the issues, needs and requirements are similar to those facing all schools, just each with its own context and nuances.”
He says the academic success of the school is based on building the students’ competencies starting in primary and extending the range of subjects available progressively.
“In Senior it's mainly a case of expanding the subject selection as larger groups go through. In Middle school we need to set up the students for success at Senior by bringing some of the skills and processes down, and in Primary we need to evaluate how successful our literacy and numeracy outcomes are, making changes that are informed by what the data is saying.”
Faith is a large part of Lawson’s approach to being a principal, he says that his Christian belief is absolutely critical to his work.
“If I didn't believe this was a call of God, or that the work we were doing was important and necessary I wouldn't be doing it. As for the approach itself, again faith is central, there is a lot of prayer about things, there is also some mystery and trust in that we can't control everything or always walk by sight and instantly see what we want to, but sometimes we have to trust that God has a bigger plan and purpose and will work things out in His timing.”
Changing jobs meant changing locations and finding a new home, luckily the process was assisted by the ACC Moreton’s staff and the previous principal Gary Underwood.
“I got to meet Gary a couple of times before I started and that was helpful. He was also including me in on relevant emails from Term 4 last year. I also had a very competent and welcoming leadership team and staff to come into.”
The new job involved a 600 km move but fortunately it was to an area where he grew up.
“Luckily, we are in a growing and developing area which will help with school growth. We need to keep improving the educational outcomes, the Christian care and ethos, and the facilities, and then with appropriate marketing and good word-of-mouth from existing families and the school will continue to grow.”