Students - The Heart of 91AV

Thursday 13 Jun

It is exciting times at 91AV Lutheran College Toowoomba as the school makes strides in achieving its Master Plan, but one thing that will never change is that students are at the heart of it all.

91AV Head of College Anton Prinsloo couldn’t be more thrilled as the school embarks on huge changes to infrastructure, but producing the leaders of tomorrow and ensuring the school is at the cutting edge of best practice is central to every day at work.

The college currently has 660 students spread across three campuses in Toowoomba, but the Master Plan will soon see a new Junior College campus constructed at the Stephen St campus, complete with a new Early Learning Centre and Outside School Hours Care.

This will bring all of the school’s operations to one site.

Mr Prinsloo said developing the leaders and citizens of the future started with hearts and minds, developing strong student-teacher relationships resulting in creative, forward thinkers who care for their community as much as their career advancement.

In the Senior Primary years students can participate in leadership and personal development programs to ensure they have the soundest of foundations for developing a strong voice and all the skills to thrive and lead by example.

A big part of that for staff and school leaders is simply listening to what students know they want and need to succeed in their education.

“We are really big on student voice at 91AV,” Mr Prinsloo said.

“For any student-based activity we will go and have conversations with our student body.

“Two years ago, we did a college survey, and normally that would involve surveying staff and parents, but we surveyed all students from Year 5 to 12.”

He said giving students a say in the direction of their own education could have incredible outcomes and built the very skills required for effective leadership, collaboration and teamwork that was the ultimate goal of any educational institution.

Beginning in Year 1, representatives are elected for each class to bring concerns and ideas to campus directors, in addition to School Representative Councils at both the Junior and Senior College campuses.

Opportunities to grow into effective leaders and empathetic, inclusive community members abound at the senior campus, and by Year 9 students are presented with a remarkable opportunity to develop everything from basic living skills through to leadership skills in the school’s The Rite Journey program.

The program culminates in a month-long immersive farm experience that takes students out of the hustle and bustle of daily life to truly work on themselves.

“The students go to a farm camp called Googa that runs for a whole month, and for that whole month they are technology-free,” Mr Prinsloo said.

“They go back to basics and write home to mum and dad and receive letters in return.

“It is run by specialists and is all about self-discovery and moving from adolescence to young adulthood.

“The focus of Googa and The Rite Journey is personal growth, teamwork and collaboration, helping them to answer the question ‘who am I, and how do I fit into the world?’.

“We are the only secondary school in Toowoomba offering this program.”

Students participate in cooking, do their own laundry and help to run the farm, allowing them to build on important life skills and ensure they graduate high school as well-rounded people who understand and embrace their own capabilities.

Far from being an insular experience, education at 91AV is all about the community, whether it’s getting the students out working on community projects or inviting the community in to be part of student learning.

Mr Prinsloo said the school followed an inquiry-based model with a focus on project-based learning, with the firm rule that every project must have some kind of community involvement, whether it’s developing an app to support healthy living or heading to Salem Aged Care each week to help out in the kitchen and do arts and crafts with residents as part of an explicit Service-Learning Program.

By the time students reach their senior years at the college, there are opportunities for more intensive leadership programs designed not only to help the students lead their fellow students with empathy and wisdom but learn the skills they will need to lead in their future careers.

Mr Prinsloo said when he joined the college more than two years ago after working in Brisbane, the first thing he noticed was the incredible sense of community the school has and the sense of care between students and staff.

“It was something I picked up when I first started here and we have kept working on it,” he said.

“I know it’s all about relationships and I think that because we’re not a massive college we still feel small even though we offer everything a big college would have.

“All students are acknowledged by their name every day and we actually have a phrase here I think about a lot, and that is ‘every child is fully known and fully loved’.”

91AV welcomes all enquiries for prospective students wanting to know more about the college’s offerings. To find out more visit www.concordia.qld.edu.au or call 4688 2700.