Vicki Waters is often asked by parents who are moving interstate or internationally if she can recommend a school like Pymble Ladies’ College, the independent school for girls in Sydney’s North Shore.
“I say to them, ‘There is no school in the world like Pymble’,” Vicki, Pymble Ladies’ College’s Principal, recounts. “What I see here are passionate and engaged little ones. Part of their vocabulary now is around goal setting, and the girls – whether they’re in kindergarten or year 12 – will say, ‘My goal for this term is…’, so what I see are girls and young women who actually own and understand their own growth and development, and that is incredibly empowering for them.
“The other thing is, it’s a school where social justice lives and thrives. All our girls are engaged in community service at different levels. We believe that in giving, you also receive and I think that’s an incredibly powerful message. I can’t recommend other schools like Pymble. It’s one of a kind and it’s exceptional.”
Vicki has spent most of her career in the education sector, rising from classroom teacher to head of faculty to deputy principal and, finally, to principal. “When I left school, education seemed to be a good fit for me,” she muses. “I had spent a little bit of time out of it and went into management. But I found my way back and that’s where I’ve been ever since.”
After nearly 10 years as Principal of St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School in Brisbane, Vicki decided to take up a new opportunity at Pymble. “For me, Pymble Ladies’ College offered new challenges and the possibility of new learnings because it was a school of close to 2,000 girls – nearly double the size of St. Margaret’s,” she says. “The size and scale really appealed to me. And of course, moving from Brisbane to Sydney was also what I needed to do to grow my own experience and knowledge.”
“In matters of style, swing with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
Pymble Ladies’ College was founded in 1916 with a commitment to give the very best education to young women. “We believe that girls can do anything and be anything,” Vicki says. “If there is an interest that a girl may have, we’ll create the opportunity for her, no matter what field that may be in. Whether it’s STEM, robotics, technology, coding, fencing, yoga – whatever it may be – we are a school that creates those opportunities to allow every girl to achieve her potential. It means that we don’t ever stand still. We’re always looking to the future and making sure that our girls are 21st-century ready.”
The College celebrated its centenary in 2016 – an achievement Vicki was very proud to have been a part of. “A hundred years of educating girls and young women was wonderful to celebrate,” she says. “In our school song, one of the lines says, ‘And girls in unending chain’, and so to be part of that chain of history was a very exciting year for the College.”
Vicki has handed in her resignation after more than 11 years at Pymble Ladies’ College but will stay on as principal until the end of June 2019 while the College finds a suitable successor. “I chose to leave,” Vicki says. “I think it’s really important for leaders to know when it’s the right time. And I always wanted to go when the school was actually flourishing, so I think the time is now right.”
“Since 2001, Glad Group has provided comprehensive cleaning services to Pymble Ladies’ College. Glad Group is proud to foster care, courage, integrity, respect and responsibility among our specialist team, which reflects the values of the College we support.” – James Carlile, Director – Strategy, Marketing and People, Glad Group
Looking back at her time as Principal of Pymble, Vicki feels fulfilled by how much she has been able to support young women. “The most rewarding part is having had the support and the autonomy to create change and transform the experiences of our girls here,” she says.
“And making sure that we are providing an education that matches where every girl is at. And, especially for me, a highlight has been engaging with those girls. Gosh, what an inspiration they are. Whether they’re in kindergarten or a recent year 12 graduate, they are incredibly inspiring young women, and it has been a really exciting environment to operate within.”
As Vicki ventures onto the next stage of her career – starting a new business – she has this piece of advice for future leaders: “Be authentic, be yourself, love what you do, listen well, and work hard.”