Top recognition for Susan Chant as exceptional and authentic leader



As a child, Susan Chant only ever wanted to be a teacher.

Now at the mid-point of her career, Susan’s commitment to education has been recognised by the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) ACT with an Excellence in Educational Leadership Award.

The Excellence in Educational Leadership Award recognises educators who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in implementing an educational initiative which leads to improved learning outcomes for students.

Susan’s appointment as Assistant Principal of St Thomas the Apostle Primary School at the start of the 2021 school year coincided with Catholic Education Canberra Goulburn’s launch of Catalyst, an evidence-based approach to teaching and learning.

When asked to comment in support of Susan’s nomination for this prestigious award, school principal Ursula Jamieson said:

‘Susan has demonstrated exceptional authentic leadership during this period, working alongside teachers to ensure they have the knowledge, support and structures in place to teach a curriculum grounded in the science of learning and the science of reading.’

Ursula described Susan as ‘a compassionate person who staff, parents and children gravitate to because of her warm and caring nature.’

Susan, an experienced educator whose career spans more than 25 years, reflected that becoming a teacher had been her aspiration since childhood.

‘Teaching is always a career I have wanted to pursue since being in primary school. There was not much else I considered to be honest!’

Susan strongly believes in the value of Catalyst, which espouses explicit instruction and high impact teaching practice.

‘I’ve been part of the journey since the beginning, which is quite lovely. I really believe in it. It’s having a huge impact,’ Susan explained.

‘I always had many questions about inquiry learning, balanced literacy or whole language approach to teaching and learning. The whole idea of leaving students to work it out for themselves without direction leaves me with many questions.

‘With HITP and explicit instruction, all teachers in the system were given professional learning that described what it is, why we are going that way as a system and how we can implement it at a school level,’ she said.

Ursula credits Susan with playing an integral role in the implementation of Catalyst at St Thomas the Apostle over the last three years.

A life-long learner, Susan has attained a Master of Education and a Master of Educational Leadership and Administration. Her passion for learning is reflected in her willingness to support other educators to build the knowledge-base and skills they need for Catalyst to succeed.

‘Susan embodies the belief within Catalyst that the most important learners in the school are the teachers,’ Ursula explained.

‘Her knowledge and understanding of high impact teaching practice and explicit direct teaching is outstanding and her coaching of teachers in these areas has been supportive for their professional development.’

In addition to her responsibilities as an Assistant Principal, Susan also works with the school’s Learning Support team, providing additional support and intervention programs to students with additional learning needs.

‘I have a real interest in seeing students go past what their potential is,’ she explained.

Susan reports that she is seeing the positive impacts that evidence-based, direct instruction is having on these students in particular, and sees early intervention as key to ensuring all students get the education they deserve.

‘We can’t leave anything to chance. We must get to them before high school, or they get left behind,’ she said.

Susan also notes the benefits of Catalyst for teachers, saying:

‘Catalyst has cut down the time for teachers and given them time to focus on how they teach rather than what they teach.’

In response to being nominated for the award, Susan was quick to emphasise the importance of a unified and consistent approach, and a commitment to ongoing learning.

‘I wasn’t expecting it at all. I’ve still got a lot of learning to do. I work in a great leadership team; we’re all on the same page. Ursula is passionate, energetic and positive.

‘The support from the office has been exemplary and without the ‘why’, getting the buy in from the teachers and implementing it at a school level would have been very challenging.

‘The challenge going from inquiry to explicit instruction would have been making the shift in our minds, firstly, then to our classroom practice and programs.

‘Once that was sorted, we were all good!’

Susan also credits the success of Catalyst to the working relationships CECG has built with other key organisations.

‘The partnership between CECG, Ochre [Education] and Shaping Minds has made such a difference. It’s been so beneficial,’ she said.

With her strong desire to see students reach their God-given potential and an unwavering belief in Catalyst, Susan maintains, ‘I wouldn’t want to teach at a school that doesn’t teach like this.’

It is heartening to know that Catholic Education Canberra Goulburn will continue to benefit from Susan’s remarkable leadership for the foreseeable future.