New principal to lead with heart 

Alison Thacker has become Tatachilla’s newest principal after a rigorous national and international recruitment campaign.

She is no stranger to Tatachilla Lutheran College, having served as a leader at the college for more than a decade. She was inspired to apply for the role of principal because of her deep commitment to the college mission and values, and because she believes education has entered a truly exciting period of transformation.

“I don’t want to miss a moment,” Ali says.

“Locally, nationally and globally, approaches to education are shifting in response to the rapid advancement of technology and changing societal needs and expectations.

“Tatachilla has a unique opportunity to prepare our students for an increasingly complex, uncertain and volatile world, while staying true to their ethics, beliefs and dreams.

“As principal, I am in the privileged position of being able to serve our close-knit school community and work with our exceptional staff to deliver an outstanding education that is Christ-centred, student-focused and future-ready.

“I believe the college has everything it needs to thrive in a rapidly changing world: world-class teaching expertise, a flourishing student body, valued parent partnerships and a deep spiritual heart.”

Interestingly enough, Ali did not particularly enjoy her own experience of school as a child. One childhood teacher had an impact, however, and inspired Ali’s thirst for knowledge and future career in education.

“My English teacher Mrs White had enormously long fingernails and a wild mane of hair, and in addition to her amazing visual presence, she was the most passionate educator. She brought every novel and Shakespearean play to life, opening up my world and triggering a lifelong love of learning.”

This formative experience motivated Ali to train as an educator herself and help make a positive difference in the lives of other students.

“The school years should be exciting, worthwhile and enjoyable,” says Ali.

“I see our children as highly capable beings with their own goals, interests and ideas and I believe they should be active contributors to their own education, helping to make it relevant and meaningful.

“It has always been my mission to assist students to find their personal pathway for educational success and I think that one of Tatachilla’s greatest strengths is its personalised approach to learning and genuine culture of care and support for each child.”

Prior to her time at Tatachilla, where Ali has served as both the Director of Teaching and Learning (R-12) and the Assistant Head of the Junior Years, Ali was the Primary Years Program Coordinator at Redeemer Lutheran School in the Barossa Valley. She has also been a strong advocate for equitable access to teaching and learning resources in the regions, helping to ensure that regional educators have the same teaching and professional development opportunities as their metropolitan counterparts.

She describes her leadership style as transformative, servant-hearted, Christ-centred and compassionate. She counts among her mentors Neville (Nev) Grieger, former principal at Unity College in Murray Bridge and author of Fuelling the fire (2020), and also Dr Brené Brown, research professor and expert in empathic leadership. Her two daughters are also a source of daily inspiration.

When Ali is not leading the college community or pursuing the frontiers of contemporary teaching practice, she may be found indulging in some of her additional passions, which include writing poetry, watching basketball, taking long walks on the beach and spending time with her beloved two-year-old grand-daughter. These are the things, Ali says, that give her balance, clarity and joy and help counter her incredibly busy professional life.

Moving forward, Ali’s great hope is that all students at Tatachilla take the college values of faith, ambition, courage, growth, kinship and compassion to heart, and that they grow to understand that all things are possible and each of them has a sacred role to play in the universe.

“I will consider my stewardship of the college to have been a success if our students are able to look back at their time at Tatachilla and believe they are loved by God, valued by their school community and capable of walking through any door to pursue their dreams.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead our beautiful school and look forward to growing alongside our staff and students, helping to sustain Tatachilla as a nurturing school for learners now while equipping them with the skills, attitudes, capabilities and knowledge they need for the future.”

Alison Thacker is the fifth principal of Tatachilla Lutheran College, following Richard Bruss (founding principal), Colin Minke, Cain McDonald and Noel Mifsud.

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