Meet Rachel Rydquist

What is your career/background?

I have been teaching for 15 years and am currently employed as the Assistant Principal at Berwick Fields Primary School. I applied for, and was successful in attaining this role at the end of 2015 when I was half way through the Master of Instructional Leadership. Prior to this, I had been working as a teacher mentor where I worked alongside teachers to develop their capacity to implement high impact teaching strategies for improved student outcomes in the areas of Literacy and Numeracy.

What inspired you to enrol in the Master of Instructional Leadership?

Working part time whilst also caring for my two young daughters I felt that I was not being challenged. The professional learning opportunities I engaged in were very didactic and incidental which never resulted in any significant change in knowledge, understanding or practice. I was seeking learning which was more engaging, ongoing and would lead to having a major impact on my knowledge, engagement, practice and capacity to lead improvement in educational outcomes for a greater number of students. I recognised the need to become more connected to current theories, research and pedagogical practices. After completing a Bastow course I was inspired to continue my learning by making a larger commitment to my own professional development. The structure of the Master of Instructional Leadership aligned well with how I work and learn best and was something I felt I could manage alongside my work and personal commitments.

What’s the best thing you’ve gained from doing the course?

The best thing I have gained through this course in the connections and networks I have developed with people and schools across Melbourne and New South Wales. I have utilised these connections and continue to work with them and share knowledge across schools for the benefit of students and teachers in a broader educational context. Personally, I have developed my own knowledge and understanding of best practice and strategies to lead whole school improvement significantly. This has enabled me to have a fresh perspective on ways of working and research based strategies which will have an impact on improving student outcomes. Most importantly I have a greater understanding of myself as a learner, leader and practitioner. I am more self-aware of my strengths and weaknesses and the impacts these can have both positive, and negative in my daily work.

What did you find most challenging about doing the course?

I found the readings really challenging at the start. I remember sitting down with the readings from the very first subject and feeling really overwhelmed and thinking that I did not have the capacity. I am glad that I persisted. As I progressed through the course I learned to recognise the researchers whose publications I connected with and were written in a way that were engaging and easy to read.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing this course?

I would highly recommend doing this course. From my experiences it is imperative that you have the full support of the Principal at your school. The course does require lots of work based projects and I know other people that did not have a supportive environment to apply their learning faced many challenges. I would also encourage people to touch base with prior Master of Instructional Leadership students so that they know what to expect and what is involved.

How did you feel when you found out you were awarded the Australian Council for the Education Leaders (ACEL) sponsorship and tertiary award for educational leadership and Administration?

I felt really grateful for the support I had around me which contributed to me completing the course and achieving my goals. I could not have done it without the teachers that participated in my research and worked with me to put into practice the new approaches I was learning about. I was also proud of myself for achieving the high expectations and goals I had set for myself.

What are your plans for the future?

After the first year I was successful in gaining an Assistant Principal position. At this point in time I want to focus on this. I would like to take more opportunities to give back to the profession and build strong communities of practice to share exemplary practice across schools, and enhance the educational outcomes of more children. One of the things I learnt about during the Master of Instructional Leadership is how crucial the first 7 years is in developing exemplary teachers. I am really passionate about investing maximum support into teachers in this stage of their career to ensure we are developing a high standard of teachers in our profession. In 2017, I have worked with my leadership team to trial an initiative with our year two students and teachers. This initiative focuses on providing students with daily opportunities to read and is targeted to developing lifelong readers. We have engaged with local universities and community members studying to be teachers. We are providing them with professional learning and opportunities to be involved in this initiative to develop their knowledge, understanding and professional practice alongside our teachers and students.