The man behind a thriving community – Principal Phil Roberts from Mount Sinai College celebrates 30 years!

March 4, 2020 by Community newsdesk
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Phil Roberts has spent half his life at Mount Sinai College – 30 years in fact.

Liat Archie, Phil Roberts (Principal of Mount Sinai College), Liam Haikin and Lara Bronks

In that time, Phil has transitioned from teacher to Deputy and begins 2020 in his 18th year as Principal of Mount Sinai College. He sits on an array of boards and influential committees; Secretary of IPSHA for 6 years, Member of ISTAA Council, Director of CIS Board and member of CIS council, Previous member of AIS Professional Development Advisory Committee that formerly set policy framework for PD across the States and Principal Coach – Trained as a principal coach under the AIS/IPSHA framework and currently coaches new principals in NSW.

It is not uncommon for schools to turn over many principals but one of the key features of Mount Sinai’s success has been its ability to attract and retain outstanding staff members, not the least Phil himself. “Our people within the school are so stable and so cognizant of what the culture is and understand organizational health within their culture,” says Roberts.

This has given Mount Sinai great stability over time and has ensured that the College has continued to embrace change whilst honouring the important traditions that have characterised Jewish learning and the ethos of the school for close to 40 years.

After finishing off the stage 1 renovations mid-last year, the College is thriving: being acknowledged for a third designation as an Apple Distinguished School and recently winning the prestigious 2019 Learning Environments Australasian award in the NSW Chapter for renovations above $5 million category. The award reinforces Mount Sinai’s successful balance between the educational transformation of learning spaces and the cultural values delivered through the architectural design and vision of the College.

Mount Sinai’s new classroom spaces effortlessly embody the vision of future education and are purposely designed to support learning that is self-directed, independent, interdependent, authentically personalized and differentiated. It promotes student-driven learning that is active rather than passive.

When asked how education has changed since he first stepped into the classroom in 1985, Phil mentions two aspects: firstly, technology and the transition into the information age; and secondly the development of cognitive neuroscience and understanding of how the brain works!

“Both these developments have impacted enormously on education in the most profound and exciting ways. We have learnt so much more about how children learn and have the interesting challenge of preparing our children for an ever-changing world,” says Roberts.

Phil believes in the ethos and groundings of Jewish education. “I think the difference with a Jewish education is the level of expectation. The value that’s put on education in both the home front and schooling is invaluable. You can’t measure it or take it for granted.” Developing the personal values and qualities in children that will prepare them for the future has always been important to the College and in this respect, Jewish education has been the guiding rudder.

A great leader is always anchored by a great team. “Our teaching staff have been able to evolve in their teaching methods. They get behind the vision and the need for change. They’ve been nimble-footed, receptive and embracing. And that’s been the distinguishing feature of our school compared to many others,” says Roberts.

When asked about his vision for the next 10 years Phil quickly saysTo get a high school, number one. And to make sure that we are always evolving. We must honour the tradition, so long as I’m here, we can never forget what it means to be a Jewish school. And keep embracing the change and leading that. If I look at 10 years from now, I want to be the school that has been so responsive to those interruptions that we get in society and I want to be able to lead at that level and to lead with a really good team.”

A token Jew at heart, Phil explainsYou’ve got to think of 32 years of walking into the shule every week, just being part of 32 years of Sederim. 32 years of Purim. 32 years of all festivals, commemorative days. It has a significant shaping of who I’ve become and I’m more aware of that in the last 10 to 15 years. That’s over half my life! And you think about the first half as a younger child, you don’t have the level of self-conscious awareness. Most of my adult life has been formed in this environment. I’d better get a bloody honorary badge when I leave!”

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