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Celebrating Canberra Schools – Hawker Primary School

By Suzanne Kiraly - 30 August 2017 0

Mandy Kalyvas is the Principal of Hawker School and leads with a Midas touch. The school oozes creativity and she has carved an environment so visibly conducive to learning that I was awe-struck!

Like its architecture, the school philosophy is unique. It is founded from the words of this beautiful poem: “If thou of fortune be bereft and of thine earthly store hath left two loaves, sell one and with the dole, buy hyacinths to feed the soul.” This is the pronouncement on the Hawker School website and “The loaves are about the core foundation skills: literacy and numeracy and the skills involved in learning”.

“The hyacinths,” Mandy explains “are about passion areas; creativity, curiosity, and confidence. It is about happiness and responding to the joy of being alive.”

This Principal is focused on “passion” and the notion of the hyacinths, are to do with what makes this school meaningful for each and every student.

Taken on a tour of the school, it struck me as to what an aesthetically impressive school this is. Not only that, but I also was impressed by Mandy’s pride in her students, her staff, and the school. There is an obvious positive vibe as I walked through the school, noting that the children were thoroughly engaged in learning wherever we went. The extensive school art collection is a real feature, both inside and outside the building.

In the playground are the most amazing pair of slides worthy of a Disneyland experience! It’s not just about fun, although the children seem to think so.

“They were created to reinvigorate an area of the school playground and to provide a mix of man-made and natural play opportunities,” Mandy explains.

Adventure is the key word in the school motto and these slides provide adventure in the playground. Mandy points out that the school is the community hub and the slides attract families to come together.

The children wanting to ride these impressive slides are provided with ‘challenge-by-choice’, encouraging children to step outside their comfort zone in a controlled way. It is a refreshing notion. Mandy says that ‘measured risk’ is something worth experiencing, and is the current trend in effective playground design and creation.

Academic achievement and high expectations are valued at Hawker School. Mandy assures me that, “It’s cool to be clever at Hawker!”. She wants each child to experience success in their learning and to develop a love for learning. Her team of dedicated teachers and staff work hard, often going ‘above and beyond’, to ensure success for each student.

The school is a ‘school of choice’ for many families including international students and it has a high proportion of EALD students; families from 21 different countries populate the school. The diversity of the school population enhances the educational experience for all students.

Moving to the aims of being a strong academic school, Mandy Kalyvas sees her role as an “educational enabler”. She is quick to point out that it is well-resourced technologically speaking, and each of the senior students in Years 4-6, have a chrome book, but the school is still very keen on physical writing skills and laying a firm foundation.

Mandy believes that there are three key factors for a successful school:

  1. People – you have to invest in your people
  2. The learning environment – you need to create an environment that is welcoming, stimulating and aesthetically pleasing. A place where everyone feels proud and connected
  3. Curriculum – of course, you have to maintain rigour to ensure that students are learning and successful

Working at Hawker is about quality practice each and every day. This idea is encapsulated by the Australian Cricket great, Glenn McGrath. While he was not always the fastest bowler on the Australian Cricket team, he was certainly the most consistent. ‘Line and length’ – quality practice each and every day is what is important at Hawker School.

I find out that Mandy also has an impressive record and it’s no wonder; in addition to all of the school related tasks, she also sits on the National Advisory Council of the Australian Principals Association; a national body representing 6500 primary school principals across Australia. As well as being the Co-President of the ACT Principals Association. To say she is at the top of her game in educational leadership is an understatement!

Mandy Kalyvas is an educational leader who is also an “enabler”. The school offers students an excellent well-rounded education. So much so, that there are now the children of former students returning and wanting the ‘Hawker experience’ for their children.

Mandy’s goal she tells me is: “to be the best school in Australia!”

And who can deny such an admirable goal from any educational leader? Hawker is truly a lovely School.


Hawker Primary School
Erldunda Circuit, Hawker ACT 2614

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