7 Questions with Sheree Du Preez
Name: Sheree Du Preez
Current title: Head of Lower School
Current organisation: Mount Pisgah Christian School in Georgia, United States
Sheree Du Preez has been in Christian education for thirty-three years. During these years she has been a classroom teacher, a librarian, a gifted education teacher, a consultant, an Elementary School Principal, an Assistant Head of School, the Director of Teaching and Learning, and Head of School at five different schools in three countries.
While leading a Christian lower school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Sheree worked with a missionary for eight years developing village schools and training teachers in Togo, West Africa. She worked with a team of teachers from her school developing 15 Christian, village schools, and a teacher training school.
After leading schools in the United States, Sheree moved to Accra, Ghana to help lead an international Christian school. After her first year as Principal, Sheree was asked to step into the Head of School position. As a result of her leadership, the school achieved accreditation and came through a contentious court battle.
After living in Ghana for five years, Sheree was offered a Director of Teaching and Learning position at an American school in Dubai, UAE. Sheree successfully helped the school achieve accreditation and worked with her team to move the school from an acceptable to good ranking.
After two years in Dubai, Sheree was asked to move back to her hometown, Atlanta, Georgia to lead a Christian lower school.
Sheree is passionate about education and enjoys working with her faculty to impact student learning. She is currently working on her Ed.S degree in Christian School Leadership from Gordon College in Boston.
Sheree is married to Jan Du Preez, a South African, whom she met in Ghana. Sheree and Jan have four children ranging in ages from 26 to 13.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
Finding the fine line between tough love and encouraging teachers has been a challenge for me. As Christian school leaders, we want to show love to our people; however, there are times we must speak the truth even when it hurts. For some, no matter how kindly and straight forward truth is given, the sting still brings hurt, and relationships are broken. As leaders, we must stand firm in expecting our faculty and staff to achieve our high expectations; however, in doing so, we must lovingly and truthfully guide those who follow us towards accomplishing these expectations.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My weekdays begin with quiet, early mornings spent with God, praying and reading His word, asking for wisdom and guidance for the day. I arrive at school at least 30 minutes before anyone else as I love the quiet time to answer emails from the evening before and to check my calendar and plan for my day. As others begin to arrive, I enjoy chatting with them about events happening in the day. After this, the excitement and thrill of arrival as carline duty begins. This is my favorite time, as I love greeting our students for the day and saying a quick hello to our parents.
Once school begins, I usually speak to the students over the morning announcements. Once announcements are finished, I have a very short leadership team meeting where we each discuss our agendas and school events for the day. After this, the school day begins as there are meetings, classrooms to visit, data discussions, etc. throughout the day. Somewhere in the mix is a stop in the lunchroom and in the teacher's lunch area to visit with teachers and students. The school day ends with dismissal duty and usually a few more meetings after school. I leave school after most as again I love the quiet time at the end of the day. After leaving school, I enjoy being home spending time with my family.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
As a leader, you will never please everyone. Pray, ask for guidance, seek counsel, and then boldly follow your decisions and commitments.
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?
Lead like Jesus Revisited by Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges, and Phyllis Hendry has had a profound impact on my leadership. Leaders can never go wrong if they follow the example of Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate role-model for leaders who seek to lead in a way that serves, develops, and loves others.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
I have found that good teachers find schools who are doing education and loving their people well. I keep these teachers by treating them well, paying them well, and leading them well.
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Promoting and establishing respectful and supportive relationships among the whole school community is essential. Recognizing achievement and other attributes such as kindness, service, emotional intelligence, growth, etc. is also important. Creating a culture and environment that is cheerful, nurturing and one where everyone feels safe (physically and emotionally) is also very important. Finally, students and teachers must know they belong and are valued for who they are and for the talents and gifts they have been given.
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?
I would say leading my school in Ghana through a four year, contentious, court battle over ownership of the school is the most meaningful story of my career so far. Leading a team and school through this battle was difficult in many ways; however, God gave us wisdom, unity, and kept the doors to the school open. Our faculty was unified and committed to our mission and our students and as a result, we worked as an incredible team educating and loving our students and families well.