As a young child growing up in historic Coventry in central England, Damian Shuttleworth was a deft climber, his fingers digging into the bark of the trees as he clambered up high.
As the transcontinental Shuttleworth family moved between the UK and the sandy shores of Western Australia when Mr Shuttleworth was growing up – Perth became home permanently in 1985 – he became handy with a ‘pitch’: the art of attracting and selling to customers.
“I was a novice ‘wheeler and dealer’ – I had four jobs at the age of 14,” he says.
“I would also save money to buy bargains at second-hand shops and sell them on for a profit!”
As he got older, Mr Shuttleworth was driven to take on leadership positions in the retail world. A keen desire to do good for the community later spurred him on to teaching, a career which his own father enjoyed.
In fact, Mr Shuttleworth senior still does the odd relief teaching job – at his son's own school.
“I started teaching 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back,” Mr Shuttleworth says.
When he joined Carine Senior High School in 2014, he became just the fourth principal in the coastal school’s 43-year history.
In just over three years as its leader, Mr Shuttleworth's efforts in steering the school have been described as “transformational” by his peers. The school’s academic and vocational achievements have risen, and staff and students are embracing new priorities and opportunities.
He has led a renewal of the school’s structure and recruited many new specialist staff. Ongoing professional learning for staff is a clear focus, as is carefully tracking the learning progress and wellbeing of every student.
Reflecting on his career so far, Mr Shuttleworth says it’s his students that make it all worthwhile.
“People often ask me if I could choose a different career, would I? My answer is always no. I would not even consider anything else,” he says.
“My work is a pleasure. I sometimes worry about retirement because I’d feel unfulfilled if I didn’t work in education.”
And as for Mr Shuttleworth senior?
“My dad was doing relief teaching at school when I realised I had forgotten my wallet,” Damian Shuttleworth recalls.
“I went out into the yard where he was on duty and in front of the Year 8 students had to ask him to borrow some lunch money.
“The students thought it was hilarious!”
With a bright future ahead for Carine Senior High School, it’s safe to say retirement isn’t on the cards for Mr Shuttleworth yet.
The 2017 WA Education Awards winners will be announced at a gala event on Friday 24 November. Damian Shuttleworth is finalist for WA Secondary Principal of the Year, and Carine Senior High School is a finalist for WA Secondary School of the Year.