Foundation for success
Keith Svendsen, Baldivis Secondary College
WA Secondary Principal of the Year 2019
Apple Valley in Minnesota was a small mid-western American town when Baldivis Secondary College Principal Keith Svendsen was growing up.
It was here, as a secondary school student, that he learned a powerful message about exceptional teaching.
“Apple Valley is about as mid-western America as you can get. Everyone had an apple tree in their backyard,” laughs Keith.
“And yet, in that place and at that time, Russian history was all I could think about. That was because of my teacher, Mr Egstad.
“I remember him so vividly because he took a subject – Russian history – and made it absolutely and utterly fascinating for a kid from the mid-west. I just couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to hear more.”
Keith says Mr Egstad’s passion about the subject had a profound effect on his learning.
“He wanted us as students to come along on a journey with him and that’s what I remember made him a really good teacher,” says Keith.
“I was fascinated by the way he could draw in our interest and make us passionate about something we weren’t aware we could be passionate about. Students should enjoy the learning journey.”
This lasting impression was also fuelled by a genuine love of learning – something he credits to his father and grandfather, who were also teachers. You could say, teaching is in the blood of the Svendsens.
“My role model is my father and the way he cared about people and went about his business looking to be innovative so that he could do his best to add value to someone’s education and experience – student or colleague,” he says.
“He has a wealth of life experience and I love, respect and trust him. His advice comes from the heart and what he truly believes is the right thing.”
And it was his father’s two year teaching exchange to Thornlie Senior High School in the 1970s that led to Keith calling Perth home. He loved the time spent in Australia so much that, after returning to the States and graduating from secondary school, he decided to study teaching in Perth.
Described by his staff as passionate, committed and inspirational, Keith says the true reward in his work is the opportunity to help people build their knowledge and skills.
“As a teacher and as a principal I always hope that they will remember someone cared, and the enjoyment they got when they challenged themselves and learnt something new,” says Keith.
“I have the privilege of working with people who care about the same things I do. And working with our young people who still teach me a thing or two and help to keep an ageing man somewhat young at heart.”
As Foundation Principal of Baldivis Secondary College, Keith has created a strong culture of respect and sense of community and family.
His peers describe him as authentic, trustworthy, passionate and inspirational – he means what he says and his actions are a reflection of what he says.
“I get my inspiration from the people around me,” reflects Keith.
“My family give me bucket loads of inspiration and feed my soul so to speak. My colleagues and students inspire me daily.
“When I arrive at work each day I am reminded of the importance in what I do when I see students arriving at school, as well as when I am greeting and conversing with staff as we commence each day.
“We all come together from different homes, backgrounds and situations, but arrive to the same destination with something unique to add.”
WA Secondary Principal of the Year 2019
This award recognises the inspiring and challenging role of principals in secondary schools. They take the lead in bringing their schools and communities together, and are well respected by their colleagues. They guide staff and students with insight and inspiration.
Proudly sponsored by Teachers Mutual Bank.
- Keith Svendsen, Baldivis Secondary College
- Dainon Couzic, Busselton Senior High School
- Mark Gillett, Cape Naturaliste College
- Phillip White, Melville Senior High School