Posted by Br Gary Wison
on 20 August 2021
What makes a regional school principal? Looking at O’Connor Catholic High School Armidale and its leadership gives a good take. Regina Menz has been associated with O’Connor from 2003, from her initial employment as a teacher.
Coming from a rural Riverina background, Regina loved teaching especially science, beginning in Gundagai NSW, taking in Toorak in Melbourne for a change, with high schools in Wagga NSW, as well as Kormilda College in Darwin, putting into action her M.Ed. in Aboriginal Education. This rich background in regional Australia was a fine fit for a diverse and educationally-centred Armidale. Regina’s three children all attended O’Connor, and after local curriculum consultancy work, she became Principal there in 2017.
She believes the College has a strong reputation for holistic education and pastoral care for students, who come from Walcha to Uralla to Guyra, as well as Armidale environs. Students and staff of O’Connor give an immediate welcome to people, says Regina.
“Our vision … (is for) a faith-filled Catholic Professional Learning Community, founded on faith, & focused on learning, working collaboratively to enhance the learning for all, resulting in students who are creative, confident and informed people, ready to make a real difference in our world. We believe that everyone can learn, not always at the same time or in the same way, and we strive to create learning opportunities for all”.
For Regina, “this is what Lasallian means”. Learning and the student are central for a woman who cherishes education, just as it was at the heart of De La Salle’s project 340 years ago.
The De La Salle Brothers raised their first Australian foundation in 1906. Years of hard work, care for boarding cohorts of 200 boys, and a reputation built on the commitment of Brothers like Benignus White, Frederick Sheridan, Anthony Flood and Patrick Howard, came spectacularly undone with the closure, in 1974, of De La Salle College, in dire financial straits. From the collapse came the new co-educational O’Connor Catholic High, with the Ursuline Sisters.
Regina Metz sees the school as Lasallian in “living and modelling the values that John Baptist de La Salle taught: “The role of teachers is ‘Touching Hearts’. For me that means building strong positive relationships with students and their families. It means especially looking after the poor and marginalised in our community. Education can and does make the difference, and our roles as teachers is to build connections, to know our students so that we can meet their needs”.
Three foundational College goals for 2021 are broader still: Faith, Learning and Collaboration. Faith means collective responsibility for improving student learning and wellbeing. Learning translates as teachers giving superior lessons daily. Collaboration is all teaming up for improvement. This year includes building performing arts facilities, a brand new gym and PDHPE rooms, as well as refurbishing the main administrative building.
O’Connor is valuing tradition, and on the move.