When he was a student, Butler College principal Armando Giglia worked as a brickies’ labourer, a fruit picker, and a wedding and nightclub photographer to make money. But it was in his first teaching job almost 40 years ago when he knew he had found his “natural fit”. This year’s WA Secondary Principal of the Year finalist shares with us some of his life experiences.
On your earliest memory
Believe it or not, I’m actually a bit of a dreamer and I can clearly remember lying in the backyard on a warm spring day watching clouds roll by and just letting my mind wander. I’ve never stopped loving quiet days like that.
On how you would describe yourself
Lucky! I have worked with great people throughout my career, have some fantastic friends and have very much been supported in my decisions by my family. You just can’t beat that!”
On a life-defining moment
The Federal Government decision on free tertiary education in 1972 was a life-changer for me – it made university possible. Also meeting great principal Brian Gell was another. He was years and years ahead of his time. So many teachers under his watch went on to bigger and better things and the Department of Education has been better for it.
On a sense of belonging
I remember when I was younger feeling torn between two different cultures. Try having a name like Armando Antonio Giglia in 1970s Perth! My parents are Sicilian. They didn’t speak English, so we didn’t speak English at home. Like me, many students – particularly refugees - have their family ties and culture, and then they will have their Australian way of life which is totally different. When I was principal of Mirrabooka Senior High School we had 58 different cultures at the school, 47 of them non-English speaking. I kept saying to students let’s celebrate the fact that we are all different so nobody is different. And it worked!
On a moment that made you realise what you do is worthwhile
I have tended to work in schools where families struggle. Seeing kids come across the stage on graduation night has always been a special thrill – especially when many were the first in their family to do so. A real highlight is having started Butler College when I was the only staff member in early 2012, to now being a school of nearly 2000 students and having our first kids graduate. It’s just so special.
On who you would take life advice from
I tend to take my time with really important calls in life so I gather information and mull it over (some call it procrastinating, but I’ll get back to you on that!) Eventually I would chat to my wonderful wife Lynda – obviously I already know she’s a very wise person because she did agree to marry me!
On what is the absolute best part of your job
When I had more direct contact with kids, it was them. Now it’s more about watching my staff grow - especially the younger ones who will have the baton passed to them – into confident, caring practitioners of their craft.
Aside from education, what are you passionate about?
Family and friends. Loyalty means a lot to me, so I’m pretty passionate about showing it to others.
On goals for the future
Professionally I want to pass on some of my experiences to other school administrators so I would love to help new principals settle in to their roles. I think I will also look to become even more involved with my professional association. I have been a WA Secondary School Executives Association management member since it started, and treasurer for the past eight years. The professional associations are a real source of learning and networking opportunities, and I want to help promote that even more.