Teach, Learn, Live Podcast: Jeanna Bolton

Tim Bullard: [00:00:02]

Welcome to the Teach Learn Live podcast. I’m your host, Tim Bullard, Secretary of the Department of Education in Tasmania.

[00:00:10] Through this podcast, we’re going to shed some light on how we’re connecting students and young people to succeed. Everyday in our classrooms, we’ve got teachers working hard to inspire our learners. And I see great school leaders making a real difference in many people’s lives. Join me as we get to know more great teachers, curious learners and inspiring families and communities who teach, learn and live in Tasmania.

Tim Bullard: [00:00:43]

Welcome to the Teach Learn Live Tasmania podcast. Today, my guest is Jeana Bolton, Principal of Port Dalrymple School. Jeanna started her career as a health and physical education teacher after completing a degree in human movement. And she’s taught across northern Tasmania with roles at Burnie High, Cooee Primary, Lilydale District School and Scottsdale High School. Her leadership journey has involve working as an advanced skills teacher, assistant principal and now principal. Jeanna says that her leadership style has been shaped by the opportunities to work alongside some amazing principals. And she also tells me that in her spare time, she enjoys running, bike riding and spending time at the beach with her family. Jeanna, welcome.

Jeanna Bolton: [00:01:25]

Thank you. And thank you for speaking with me today.

Tim Bullard: [00:01:28]

First of all, can you tell us a little bit around Port Dalrymple school.

Jeanna Bolton: [00:01:32]

Port Dalrymple school is a kinder to year 12 school. We also have launching into learning so pre-Kinder program and we have years 11 and 12 so we are an extension school. We’re lucky enough to have a trade training centre which caters for adult learners. And it’s an amazing a place to work. So we have wonderful teaching and a non-teaching staff and close to 51 teachers part time and full time. And it is a place to work where you know you’re making a difference every day to the students.

Tim Bullard: [00:02:08]

So I know that you’ve worked in quite a number of our schools, especially across the north-west and north of the state. What do you think makes Port Dalrymple School unique for you?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:02:19]

What makes this a unique place to work? Certainly that our teaching staff, our non teaching staff, are able to share the learning journey of our students from those pre-kinder years right through to year 12. And in some cases, adulthood, if there are adults engaged in learning it at our centre. So it’s sharing the learning journey and our being very connected to the parents and guardians of our students.

Tim Bullard: [00:02:48]

Yeah. So quite an amazing opportunity, I imagine, to meet someone when they’re four and now with your 11 and 12 provision, potentially wave them off when they’re 18 and to have seen the development over all of those years.

Jeanna Bolton: [00:03:03]

It certainly is. And the teachers get to know the students personally, their needs and also their interest to be able to engage them in throughout their learning journey.

Tim Bullard: [00:03:16]

So the majority of our schools are either primary schools or secondary schools or colleges. And you have the unique opportunity of leading that K to 12 provision. What does that mean for your role as a principal?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:03:33]

Certainly, Tim. It’s around understanding the importance of developing shared understandings on teaching and learning with the teachers, kinder right through to year 12. Creating teams where we all understand those teaching practices that have the best impact and the greatest impact on the learning outcomes of our students. So over the last three years, it certainly has been connecting our teachers as a group, as a large team, working and learning together.

Tim Bullard: [00:04:11]

And what is a typical and I’m sure for principals there isn’t really a typical day. But what does a typical day look like for you in the Port Dalrymple context?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:04:22]

The Port Dalrymple context. So our sites quite large. So certainly of a morning time, it’s meeting and greeting our teachers as they arrive at school and then certainly our parents and guardians and students as they arrive through the school gate. I understand the importance of throughout the day visiting each of the classrooms and the students and taking a real interest in what what they’re learning. But it’s certainly not just about the students. It’s about the teachers as well and their teaching practice and being able to to work and support them in the classroom and then throughout the day. It’s moving from Kinder right through to year 12 at our trade training centre and connecting with with all people on site.

Tim Bullard: [00:05:13]

And what do you find the most inspiring or the most motivating part of your role?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:05:19]

I suppose the most motivating part of the role is seeing our students learn. Seeing them progress, the smiles on their face when they move up the reading level to helping in our Breakfast Club. There’s so many amazing moments each day for our students, and that’s what makes this place such such a great school to work at, not only for me, but certainly for our teachers as well.

Tim Bullard: [00:05:50]

I think that’s a really great reflection. And certainly in some of the other interviews that I’ve done, that sense of seeing children and young people grow either in terms of their their well-being or in terms of their literacy or in terms of their social and emotional development has been a really strong theme that’s been coming through. Another theme that we’ve been seeing coming through is that of partnerships and the recognition that as an education system, we can only achieve what we want to by working with others. I know that Port Dalrymple has a really strong place in the in the George Town community. Can you talk a little bit around how you work with families to support learners?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:06:34]

Certainly. One of the areas in which we’ve been working, and this is certainly identified when I first started at Port Dalrymple, was the need for our school to connect to community, to business and industry and initiatives in the Georgetown area. So we became a Beacon Collective Ed school. And so what that actually means is we have an assistant principal and their primary role is to connect us to business and industry in the local community. And that was around ensuring our year 11 and 12 students had a connection post year 12 and and a pathway. And so what we’ve been doing, Tim, is working with the Future Impact Group in George Town. And that future impact group is made up of a number of leaders in George Town and council and certainly that surround ensuring that we cater for the young people in it. In George Town and they have a pathway posts post due to 12 this year, some of that work has resulted in us getting six school based apprenticeships in place. And just recently, with South32 and the George Town Council, them supporting us financially to provide laptops to the families and children in George Town so that they can continue their learning and connect with community at home. Because certainly many of our families, there’s more than one child and in some cases they don’t have a device for learning or they need more than one. So that’s certainly been an outcome of that that work in the Future Impact Group Collective Ed.

Tim Bullard: [00:08:25]

I know that you’re doing a really great job with Collective Ed, and I know that in one sense, in terms of community readiness, you’ve been a bit fortunate because she had the social impact work already going on in that community group, which we’ve been able to key in to rather than replicate. But it is really complex work, and I suppose it does seem to be working there. Is that your sense?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:08:50]

It does. There’s certainly some big initiatives from resourcing that George Town’s received out of it. And I think certainly the school being connected Tim, with that group, has enabled the resourcing to come our way. I know that they’ve got another quite a significant amount of money to come our way for our scholarships for years 11 and 12. And that’s in response to COVID as well. So that’s another large sum of money within by the end of the month. Yeah, this is amazing.

Tim Bullard: [00:09:21]

And do you think that having the community commitment to lifting education outcomes and seeing it from a multidisciplinary approach, not just landing it back in the lap of the school, is a useful cultural shift?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:09:37]

Totally. And I think it’s been certainly a cultural shift too with some of the organisations with connected with. Because, I mean, once upon a time, the what is it, the Bell Bay precinct here, I’m talking 20, 25 years ago, did employ from the schools. So now that cultural shift back to wow we’ve got children here who are employable. So that connection with Bell Bay precinct and post-Year 12 pathways is so important. And that’s another that is it’s a shift.

Tim Bullard: [00:10:08]

And do you think just having business showing that confidence in the employability of your children and young people helps to lift aspiration in your in your school community more broadly.

Jeanna Bolton: [00:10:23]

Totally. Aspiration is certainly a focus at our school, because if students can’t see the pathway, if they can’t see options for them locally, if they’re committed to staying locally, then how do you have that aspiration? You need to see some success around you.

Tim Bullard: [00:10:42]

And I’m just interested on the school based apprenticeships, fairly new in terms of in the history of education, moving into a space where you can actually have an apprenticeship and still have to study. What do you think that’s offered children or young people in senior secondary school?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:10:59]

Certainly in the senior secondary area, it’s a commitment to the learning. We had two probably yeah, they were vulnerable students that if they didn’t have their school based apprenticeship, I certainly don’t believe that they would have the attendance rate and be achieving at the level that they are at the moment if it wasn’t for that apprenticeship. Because we’re able an example today to go to one of our students and say, well, if you’re in uniform in the workplace, this is a workplace, you need to be in uniform, also you need to make sure you’re on time in the workplace – do that school. So it’s those connections that you’re able to make.

Tim Bullard: [00:11:40]

And I think that we can’t disregard the fact that some young people need to see the point of education and a school based apprenticeship shows automatically the point because you are working and you can see that to continue working, you need to come back and study and continue to train. So it’s a really tangible way of demonstrating that, isn’t it?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:12:03]

And certainly I know for some of our students that in a senior secondary sector, they’re committed and probably don’t have the resources to move out of George Town. So that was the other need once we became an extension school to be focusing on that post year 12 pathway because finish year 12, I’m unemployed. So that’s been a positive.

Tim Bullard: [00:12:24]

I know that the opportunities that you partnering with external bodies has brought to learners. And absolutely, I think that Port Dalrymple has been such a great leader in terms of demonstrating how schools can work with business bodies and community bodies to achieve outcomes. What were some of the challenges that you had to overcome though, to get that working and working well?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:12:50]

Certainly it was around with the Future Impact Group. Identifying what the needs were in the George Town community and unpacking the data. Not just for the school, but more broadly. And working with that future impact group certainly enabled us to highlight what that needs were in George Town and to be able to address those. So that was certainly the first challenge we were presented with and making sure that the decisions we were making were based on the needs of our context. One of the other challenges for us is that we understood the need for our senior secondary students to have a positive future and be able to see that there certainly was a pathway for them. And I believe that by the school based apprenticeships, our focus in that space that has enabled them to identify and say, well, look, this is a possibility for me. A school based apprenticeship, a traineeship, but also completing my study. So that certainly has overcome that challenge of, you know, not quite knowing what it looks like for them post year 12.

Tim Bullard: [00:14:03]

Going down to the other end, because we’ve spoken about senior secondary and pathways into work. But going right down to the other end of your amazing school into the early years. Do you want to talk around partnerships there, and the work that you’re doing with some of the other bodies in George Town and with families?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:14:22]

Certainly so, Port Dalrymple School is part of the early years collective in George Town. So we work very closely with the other local primary schools and the Child and Family Centre and ECIS to plan pre-kinder space and launching into learning program so that they’re certainly connected to the needs of our pre-Kinder children and families. And again, that team of leaders has been looking specifically at data around our KDC. So some of the outcomes of that have been that at Port Dalrymple School has an indoor heated pool and it was highlighted the need for water orientation and developing the gross motor skills of our pre-Kinder children. And so that was used as certainly an outreach program. And also to develop the gross motor skills of our young ones. So we also work closely with our launching into learning programs in that a number of those operate out of our child and family centre. So those partnerships have enabled the team of leaders to plan really carefully around the needs of children and families in the pre-Kinder space. And collaboration, certainly around resourcing and providing programs in a number of different spaces and schools.

Tim Bullard: [00:15:54]

It’s just so clear to me that, you know, in Port Dalrymple’s committed to partnering and doing such a great job. If I was an early career teacher, though, and I was coming to you and saying, where do I even start partnering with parents and community members? What would your key bits of advice be to help me to do that well?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:16:12]

Certainly it would be connecting with the parents and guardians of the students they teach. And we’ve got a real focus on developing trust with our families. And so those incidental conversations which have happened prior to COVID, where our parents and guardians would go into the classroom of a morning time to meet the teachers. The conversations that happened in the playground. Our extracurricular activities that they’re the places that we certainly do make the effort to have conversations around children and their learning and their needs. And that’s so important. We had prior to COVID we had a number of parent volunteers that would come in and help with our home reading program. And I could list a number of other initiatives where we have parents and guardians coming in to support the learning.

Tim Bullard: [00:17:12]

Do you think that it’s important that we recognise schools as community hubs effectively and that they are welcoming places for parents and community?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:17:23]

I certainly do, Tim. I think it needs to be a collective effort around improving the outcomes for students. Yes, certainly schools and teachers play an important role, but it’s a lot bigger than that. We certainly need to be working in partnership with our parents and guardians and in partnership with local communities such as Port Dalrymple School. We need to know that our students have housing, that our students have food. Yeah, it certainly is a partnership.

Tim Bullard: [00:17:57]

So you’ve spoken a bit about COVID and the challenges, obviously, that that’s put in place. Especially around people having access to our sites. And you’ve also recognised that important aspects of partnership. But I’m interested, what other opportunities do you think have come out of COVID and having children and young people learning at home?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:18:20]

Certainly my leadership team last week actually unpacked certainly some of the learnings that have come out of COVID and partnerships with families. And so certainly through the learning packs went home. Whether there was hard copy or learning via canvas that was identified that it was an opportunity for our parents to learn. And our guardians to reconnect with their children and certainly their child is at. So there were some amazing conversations whether that was over the phone or via teams where we certainly had parents asking questions around numeracy and literacy. And can I get some more resources to help my child at home? So that was certainly one of the positives for us. Is that our parents and guardians were learning where possible home too.

Tim Bullard: [00:19:21]

I think that we’ve seen, too, that there’s a much higher regard for the complexity of teaching children, especially small children, at home. And I’m speaking from personal experience here. Just getting someone who’s seven to sit still for a period of time to undertake learning certainly provided a challenge in my household. You’ve got a lot of experience working in a complex environment. And I’d really appreciate some of your reflections on what is it about you and your way of working that you think makes you a success in your role.

Tim Bullard: [00:21:04]

We were all students at one time and I’m really interested to hear about someone who inspired you.

Jeanna Bolton: [00:21:12]

So I’ve never left school since I started kinder. I’ve realised that I have never taken a period of leave. So I’ve gone from kinder right through to principal. I was lucky enough Tim, when I first started teaching on the West Coast. Certainly my journey I’ve been inspired by many teachers and principals. And certainly I find now here I am in a principal role and one of my teachers that has certainly inspired me is now my principal network leader. And so that’s been wonderful because she knows probably my background, where I’ve come from, my journey and have a very close working relationship. So I think in terms of principalship having the opportunity to do the apprenticeship and learn and grow from other leaders, I think I wouldn’t like to name any one personally. But certainly I’ve taken an aspect of their leadership to mould and grow the type of leader that I’d like to be.

Tim Bullard: [00:22:17]

If you had to go back and tell yourself when your 12 or 13 one thing, what would it be?

Jeanna Bolton: [00:22:25]

One thing that I would tell myself is that you can accomplish anything. That you need to have motivation, a positive growth mindset and certainly learning and education is the key to achieving your dreams.

Tim Bullard: [00:22:44]

Well, Jeanna, thank you so much for sharing your amazing knowledge and experience today. I’ve heard a really strong commitment from you to partnering with parents and communities and external bodies for the good of our learners. And I’ve also been really inspired by your reflection on the importance of growth and a growth mindset. So thanks so much. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.

Jeanna Bolton: [00:23:09]

Thank you for having me.

Tim Bullard: [00:23:10]

You’re welcome.

Tim Bullard: [00:23:19]

I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast. To hear more about those people who teach, learn and live in Tasmania, join us at www.education.tas.gov.au/podcast. Or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Why not subscribe so that you can keep up to date with what we’re doing? Or if you have a story about an inspiring teacher or student. Email us at teachlearnlive@education.tas.gov.au