Leadership on and off the field

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During more than two decades as a high-achieving and passionate Aussie rules football player, Stewart Kemperman says he learned a lot from the game.

As an educator, the same principles of hard work, sacrifice and working as part of a team apply. Kemperman, a year 4 teacher and deputy head of the junior school at Haileybury College, says football helped him become a proficient, accomplished educator and leader.

“One aspect that applies to both football and education is feedback,” he says. “As a footballer you are constantly receiving feedback on how to improve as a player and as a coach. To me this is one of the most powerful tools for learning and improving your craft. In teaching it’s no different; to improve your craft, you have to be open to feedback – good, bad and indifferent.”

After holding various positions of leadership – junior school coordinator, head of year 8, head of house – Kemperman actively sought to further his leadership capabilities by completing a Masters in Educational Leadership.

“As you become more experienced as a footballer you also inherit leadership roles within the club; whether you’re a titled leader or not, players naturally look up to their more senior counterparts,” he says. “In schools it’s similar, as more experienced teachers become a suitable candidate for leadership or mentoring positions.”

He says effective leadership in education is grounded in a strong understanding of the curriculum, and clarity around one’s social and emotional educational philosophy. Strong communication skills are also a must.

“You have to remain human, and what I mean by that is that relationships evolve each and every day; people need to see that you live and uphold the values you preach or that they have read,” Kemperman says. “Education is an enormous partnership between all in the school, the family and the student.”

This year Kemperman’s football journey has entered a new chapter, the coaching realm. He coached the Berwick Football Club through an undefeated season ending with a grand final victory: the first time in the club’s 134-year-history that they have gone through an entire season undefeated and won the premiership.

“This has opened my eyes to the true power, breadth and influence of effective leadership,” he says. “With a clear vision, effective communication, strong, respectful relationships and a willingness to work hard, [impressive] results are possible. These principles can be applied to schools as well.”

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