Posted by Julia Goonan
on 1 July 2019
Paul Forrester is the newly appointed Principal of De La Salle College Ashfield. Raised in a family of teachers, Paul never thought he would follow in the footsteps of his father until he attended camps for underprivileged teenagers after studying business. This led his career to Holy Spirit Lakemba as Assistant Principal. Over the last 23 years of inspiring students, Paul accepted his role as Principal of De La Salle College Ashfield, and was more than happy to sit down with us to discuss a little bit about the role and how he came to accept it.
How long have you been teaching?
This is my 23rd year as a teacher, I started in the field of business but felt called to be a teacher after a few years.
What made you become a teacher?
It began with an experience whilst working with the Christian brothers in support of underprivileged kids in Western Sydney. We ran retreats and camps for these kids and the connection with these young people and seeing the incredible need within these kids really struck a chord with me. It was a real physical acknowledgement that this is what I wanted to do. I'm also in a family of teachers, my dad was a principal for over 25 years, so education has been a very strong influence in my family. When I left school, it was the last thing I wanted to do, however through that powerful experience with young people on these camps, I realised I wanted to continue to work with them.
What made you say yes to being principal at De La Salle College Ashfield?
It's an amazing privilege and for me, it's the opportunity to be in relationship with a whole community. This is particularly special at Ashfield, which has a great sense of community and where I am spoilt with such a tremendous staff. It's a really humbling experience to be able to even have a small influence on people from the age of 12 right up to adulthood. There is a wonderful excitement in watching people grow and flourish. To have people sometimes way down the track remember something you said or did, is a really amazing experience and a wonderful privilege. The role of principal allows you to have an influence on so many different people but it's also about being a model and example to my own family. My three sons are in Lasallian schools, and I think it is really important to show my own children that wanting to achieve at the highest level is something to really aspire to. I want my own children and the children I serve to understand how important it is to continue to grow and improve.
When you were appointed as Principal, were there any particular goals you had in mind to achieve for the Tercentenary year?
My goal is to further understand the charism. I am blessed that there is a very active presence of St John Baptist De La Salle in our community at Ashfield. The Tercentenary year for me is an amazing time to start as a Principal in a Lasallian school; it's been very much about celebration. John Dunn, our Director of Faith and Mission, was given the Letters of Affiliation this year at our Founders Day celebration. It was one of the most moving and special experiences I've had in my time working in education; it really was quite special. Also the Tercentenary Mass at St Mary's Cathedral where a number of our gifted musical students sang and had crucial roles, was fantastic. For our boys to see that they belong to something so much bigger - that is what makes the Tercentenary so special.
In terms of goals for the school, literacy has been a significant focus for the year. We have been developing an explicit program for Reading and are really enthused about a targeted reading program for students that have difficulties with reading. This has been a big focus for us in terms of the school itself.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
To not worry quite so much about what other people think. To hold your values really close to you and make sure you remain close to them rather than being out to impress other people.