WA Secondary Deputy Principal of the Year 2021

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Leading school success

Rob Nail, Cape Naturaliste College
WA Secondary Deputy Principal of the Year

Ask anyone at Cape Naturaliste College about Rob Nail, and they will describe him as nothing short of exceptional.

As a foundation associate principal of the college when it was established in 2006 with just 70 students, Rob has played a big part in the school’s growth into the successful senior high school that it is today.

Rob’s peers describe him as trustworthy, empathetic, highly intelligent, resilient and a deep and reflective thinker.

It is these attributes that have earned him a reputation as an exceptional leader and a role model for the entire school community.

But working in education wasn’t always the plan for Rob.

Spending his formative years sailing and hanging out at the Perth Dinghy Sailing Club, Rob then tried his hand at roof tiling. He embarked on study but soon realised he needed to change direction.

“I started studying at university for another career and hated it,” Rob says.

“I had always enjoyed showing others how to do things and a friend I was helping suggested I should be a teacher – I changed courses and never looked back.”

Rob’s journey at Cape Naturaliste College has been a labour of love.

He has co-led the school through many transitions, from its opening as a middle school and then a senior high school, to overseeing three new building projects, COVID-19 adjustments and many other challenges along the way.

“I like to think I have had a significant impact on the college culture and operations,” he says.

Testament to his strong relationships and empathetic nature, Rob ensures he gets to know students and their families, and works with individual students to develop their own pathway.

He has left a positive imprint on all aspects of the school’s culture and community, describing his approach to leadership as involved, hardworking, responsible and reflective.

“My job is to try and get people with completely different perspectives and interests to understand each other,” he says.

“Giving students a pathway to success means providing them with the interpersonal and academic skills required to succeed in life, and by providing a range of relevant pathways to help students launch into a career.”

As for what success means to Rob, it is all about engaged students and strong relationships.

“Logic, goodwill and strategy are all crucial, but you won’t get far unless you build and maintain good relationships,” he says.

“If I could give one piece of advice to students, it would be to engage with life, education and others.”

It is a piece of advice that Rob subscribes to himself, as following his passions when not at school is just as important.

Thirty years after sailing from Sydney to Tasmania with his father and grandfather, Rob sailed from Brisbane to New Caledonia with his father and his son.

“My happy place is messing around with boats and working on projects in my shed. And at school, helping staff and students is the most fulfilling part of my role.

 “My mantra is to work hard and look for opportunities to laugh.”

This award recognises the important role of deputy principals. Committed to making a difference in the lives of young people. Dedicated and innovative, they ensure the learning needs of all students are met. They build and maintain collaborative and respectful partnerships across the school and the wider community.

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  • Rob Nail, Cape Naturaliste College
  • Christopher Hill, Shenton College
  • Grant Richards, Woodvale Secondary College
  • Kacey Single, Ridge View Secondary College