The journey from university student to high school principal didn’t follow a typical trajectory for Todd Watson (Bed(MidSecSch),BHlthSc ’12).
Todd explains, “When I was younger, I’d tried a few different jobs and started two different degrees before enrolling in an Education degree at Flinders University to become a PE teacher.”
“The grounds and location looked appealing, and the Education degree looked good. So, I thought, why not give it a go?”
After completing his degree, Todd returned to his hometown of Millicent in regional South Australia. He planned to do some casual relief teaching while seeking a permanent position but found an unexpected opportunity.
“I walked into what I thought was just going to be a conversation around what Millicent High School might be able to offer and walked out with a set of keys,” he recalls.
Todd began teaching English and Physical Education (PE) and over time transitioned into more senior PE roles that expanded his teaching responsibilities.
At the age of 37 he took on the role as Principal, overseeing approximately 70 staff and 450 students. It is thought he’s one of the youngest principals ever at the school.
He credits his success to prioritising building relationships with students and staff, a skill he learned from his Flinders educators.
“I had educators who were really good at relationships, and that rubbed off on me,” he says.
“A key part of me being able to do my job well is being able to build relationships with students and staff, which makes the job far easier.”
Despite rarely finding himself in a classroom these days, Todd finds ways to stay involved with the students, such as attending school camps.
“I think that’s where you get to build great connections with the kids. For me it always comes back to the kids,” he says..
“I think sometimes the smallest thing on a camp could be seeing a student completing everything that would normally be a struggle for them, or someone might come out of their shell, or it could be how a group can come together and have so much enjoyment.”
Todd’s rural background has made him a natural fit for the close-knit community at Millicent High School. He values the strong connections he has with both students and their families.
“I’ll run into a family and you can ask how the kids are getting on or you can ask them about the local sport that they’re involved in, it’s just a nice little way to stay connected to the community,” he explains.
He also believes that working in a rural school provides unique opportunities for educators.
“City schools are a lot larger and have more competition for roles, so it can take longer to move up the ladder,” he says.
“At Millicent, we make sure to provide development and leadership opportunities because we recognise it’s harder to get staff to come to the country. But most find once they do, they can’t believe what they hadn’t considered it sooner. We find a lot of teachers think they’re only going to be here for a year or so and they end up staying much longer. ”
Todd’s journey is testament to the value of exploring different paths and taking chances. He’s aware of the pressure some students feel to choose the ‘right’ path for themselves right out of high school. For those who are uncertain, he encourages them to keep moving forward and embrace opportunities as they come.
“It’s not always linear, and that’s fine,” he says.
“I can tell them that I spent six years doing a variety of different things. I started three different degrees. I did a Personal Training course and then came back and worked on a farm for six months.
“I tell them to just keep moving, keep taking chances, the worst that might happen is you’ll find out what you don’t like, then move on.”