7 Questions with Toni Steinbergs
Name: Toni Steinbergs
Current title: Deputy Principal, Head of Teaching and Learning
Current organisation: Bayside Christian College
I have been a teacher for 27 years and have taught in primary and secondary, in Queensland and Victoria, in Christian and State schools. I became Deputy Principal in 2015, and had six months as acting Principal in 2018. I much prefer being the Deputy.
I have been married to Marcus for 26 years, and have two sons. We live in Bittern on the Western Port side of the Mornington Peninsula and share our 2 acres with a dog, a cockatiel, several fish, many chickens, and an assortment of wildlife such as cockatoos, rosellas, magpies, possums, koalas, echidnas and wallabies that visit from time to time.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
One of the biggest challenges is realising that just because I work in a Christian School, and we only employ Christians, does not mean that everyone will 'act Christianly' all the time. People are different and complex, with different stories and experiences that shape the way they act and react in different situations. It is really important to always be mindful of this, and to be tolerant and understanding of where people are at, at the same time as keeping high expectations that the team are required to meet. It is a balancing act.
On the same day, regarding the same situation, I have been equally accused by different staff of being 'inflexible' as well as 'understanding and supportive'. I have to remember that God put me here with my set of gifts and talents, to do a certain job, and some people will respond really well to that, others will not.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My days are very routine. I'm up at 6:30, get ready for school, make lunch, eat breakfast, out the door by 7:40 to arrive just after 8. Into my office, turn on computers, make a plan for the day, then completely ignore it as I respond to the important interruptions that make up most of my work day!
I try to deal with emails a few times a day, usually have a meeting or 5 and spend much of my work day ensuring that things are running smoothly for the real stars of the team- the teachers - to be able to do what they do well. Most days I finish work between 5 and 6pm and head home again. I walk the dog, cook dinner for the family, sit to eat, then it's dishes, tidy, a load of washing sometimes, and spend some family time. Some evenings I have College Board or network meetings. I often check emails again later in the evening to ensure nothing urgent has come up.
I'm very pleased to be finished with studying my Masters of Education, so now I have more time to relax in the evenings. I think alot about taking out a gym membership, but I don't like gyms! I often do random exercises while talking with the family, watching TV or even brushing my teeth. I get to bed about 10:30 to 11 most nights, where I read the Bible and pray for a while. I fall asleep in about 3 minutes after closing my eyes.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
It's okay to be me. God designed me to be me, with the skills and talents he decided I needed. I can't be someone else.
4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
When studying My MEd Leadership with the National Institute for Christian Education (NICE), one of the core texts was Bartholomew & Goheen's 'The Drama of Scripture'.
It provided an overview of the grand narrative of the Bible, providing the foundation and shaping of a Christian Worldview. Obviously it is vital for Christians to have such a foundation. It impacts the way I read the Bible and the way I apply its truth in my daily life. As an aside, I highly recommend all Christian teachers undertake MEd. study with NICE- it will revolutionise the way you see your role as a Christian educator.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
It starts with hosting placements and training up teachers into Christian Education. We are training and equipping the next generation of teachers with strong foundations in biblical worldview teaching; this helps all Christian schools who may later employ them.
When we interview, we are looking for teachers who are eager to be a part of Christian education, and who understand that it is not just values, or telling kids about Jesus; it is about a whole-of-life biblical perspective that informs how we think, plan, teach and interact. Keeping teachers also requires continually supporting our staff with an amazing Christian community, opportunities for growth and development, and ongoing professional development.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
There is such an X-factor to this, but it really starts with an amazing team of people who love Jesus, love being a part of Christian education, and love kids. When anyone asks 'How are you?', we genuinely want to hear the response, and then help where we can.
As a leader, this also means ensuring that our College well-being teams are well-supported and resourced to provide the level of care they need. Having smaller teams who look out for each other is also key. We love to laugh... a lot! And it is encouraged.
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
Right now we are in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, and in Melbourne we are in our second period of lockdown with remote learning. I am a part of a fabulous network of Heads of Teaching and Learning from Christian Education National schools across our CEN Victoria network.
Every week, we get together in a Zoom meeting and support each other. We share stories of how our schools are managing, ideas for managing staff and students, and strategies for improving teaching and learning across our schools, as well as just laughing together. I have attended dozens of conferences, with internationally renowned speakers and excellent presentations speaking of the importance of Christian community; our network is one of the most powerful examples of Christian School community and collegiate support. I am blessed to be a part of it.