Chris Nastrom-Smith: Nurturing Growth and Meaningful Contributions in Educational Leadership

Chris Nastrom-Smith | Deputy Principal - Curriculum, Loreto College Coorparoo
Chris Nastrom-Smith | Deputy Principal - Curriculum, Loreto College Coorparoo

Chris Nastrom-Smith is a dedicated Deputy Principal – Curriculum at Loreto College Coorparoo whose journey transcends titles. He is an educational leader driven by the aspiration to cultivate environments that foster authentic learning experiences. His commitment extends to creating opportunities for both staff and students to engage meaningfully contributing to the school community in novel ways.

As a vital member of the College Leadership Team and Board, Chris’s expertise lies in strategic thinking and planning, curriculum oversight, risk and compliance management, policy and procedure implementation, leadership of curriculum middle management, human resourcing, budgeting, and staff coaching.

Chris’s educational leadership isn’t just about managing curriculum but creating a dynamic ecosystem where every individual has the chance to grow and contribute meaningfully.

Let’s explore the tale of a leader committed to shaping transformative educational experiences!

Brief us about your career path as a leader until your current position. What were the challenges that you had to overcome to scale your progress? 

I have had the privilege to lead staff, students and school communities in a diverse range of leadership positions and school contexts, including roles as Deputy Principal, Director of Strategy and Data, Director of Junior Secondary, Head of Co-Curricular, and Head of Faculty. Each experience has provided an opportunity to support staff and students to achieve high standards and to build capacity through meaningful learning experiences.

My educational philosophy is deeply rooted in my lifelong commitment to becoming an educator. My passion and purpose stem from a desire to be an educational leader who pushes the boundaries of traditional education, ultimately reimagining it so that it better prepares our graduates for an unknown and ever-changing future.

Tell us about your establishment’s mission and vision. 

Loreto College Coorparoo is a secondary school for girls within the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Established in 1928, Loreto College is part of an international network of over 150 Mary Ward schools worldwide, offering a unique and innovative education that empowers girls to make a profound difference in the world. Mary Ward founded the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1609, recognising the transformative power of education and the care and development of faith.

The Mary Ward tradition of excellence in women’s education dates back to 1609, when Mary Ward founded a religious order and opened her first school for girls in St Omer. She believed in the capacity of women, through education, to make a profound difference for good in the world. Mary Ward is remembered fondly as an innovator and disruptor centuries ahead of her time. Her legacy inspires us today to be “seekers of truth and doers of justice.”

Today, we honour Mary Ward through our vison at Loreto College to offer a Catholic education that liberates, empowers, and motivates students to use their individual gifts with confidence, creativity, and generosity in loving and responsible service.

What methodologies do you implement that contribute to new growth opportunities?

At Loreto College Coorparoo, one key strategic initiative introduced in 2020 was the HEART Teaching and Learning Framework. The central tenant to this framework is Mary Ward’s belief that education for girls must be congruent to the needs of the times. Mary Ward’s words embolden us to pursue growth opportunities that are reflective of the modern world and ensure that all staff are adopting reflective practices to shape our educational experiences.

Practical strategies to support this reflective approach include a coaching methodology utilized by our senior and middle leaders as they work alongside staff, an annual staff review process linked to the College’s Teaching and Learning Framework along the fortnightly Professional Learning Team meetings that focus on research-driven approaches to pedagogical practice.

How does being a not-for-profit impact the leadership’s responsibility for risk management and how does your board engagement contribute to predicting and adjusting operational results strategically?

Loreto College Coorparoo as a not-for-profit entity brings with it a high degree of responsibility on the College Leadership Team to ensure a comprehensive risk management plan is in place to protect the school’s reputation, ensure its long-term financial sustainability and to manage its enrolment growth, with all three requiring strategic leadership.

My board engagement over the past 10 years has resulted in a heightened awareness of the key drivers of school leadership including governance, community demographics, finance, risk and compliance, human and material resourcing, and marketing. The inter-relationship of these vital functions at the College and the ongoing control of key performance metrics enables me to inform the Board and its sub-committees of predicted operational results that will influence financial performance and allow the Board to consider the necessary adjustments required to respond strategically.

What strategies do you implement to promote gender diversity for various leadership positions at your establishments? 

At Loreto College Coorparoo, we strive to liberate, empower and motivate our students to use their individual gifts with confidence, creativity and generosity in loving and responsible service. Staying true to this mission, the same approach to our staff applies to our staff. The College offers a shadowing program to our leaders and in 2023 we implemented a Leadership Framework to develop and guide our current and emerging leaders. This approach complements our coaching methodology that was introduced into our leadership practice in 2022.

What values do you incorporate to enhance the work culture to enhance learning at the institute?

At the Loreto College Coorparoo, the five values of Loreto and Mary Ward shape our workplace culture. They are:

  • Felicity: to be people of joy, optimism, hope, and laughter.
  • Freedom: to act out of love not fear; to be inwardly free to refer all things to God.
  • Sincerity: to be such as we appear and appear such as we are.
  • Verity: to seek and find the truth about ourselves and our God; to do what we have to do well.
  • Justice: to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.

To support these values, the College places significant emphasis on staff wellbeing and have actively reshaped our daily routines to reflect the importance of this.

What, according to you, could be the next significant change in the education sector? How are you preparing for the change? 

The challenges emerging for the education sector include the well-being of students and staff. For Loreto College Coorparoo, our challenge is to decode how these two significant issues align with the current model of schooling and balance these influences as we strive to deliver a first-class educational experience.

From a governance and operational perspective, the continuing emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) poses significant change, challenge and potential benefit to school communities. The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence is challenging school leaders and staff to review pedagogical approaches, reframe assessment and to update policies, procedures and practices.

The reality is that we are educating a generation of students where artificial intelligence will be part of their everyday lives. Our challenge as school leaders is to assist students and staff in developing approaches that use AI tools ethically and in a way that leverages their potential benefit. It certainly is an exciting time to be wrestling with the potential possibilities of this technology.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for the establishments?

I aspire to lead a school community and use each day in my current role to reflect and grow my leadership skillset. To achieve this goal, I know I have much to learn, but at the same time, I am extremely confident that I have a lot to offer right now as the principal of a school community.

I see the learning and growth that each of us inevitably experiences each year as a value add and look forward to growing in partnership with my leadership team and my school community. Right now, I am enjoying the opportunity that I have to lead and learn alongside the members of the Loreto community.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women leaders? 

My advice for all leaders in general, is to ensure a broad experience in all operational aspects of your organisation. Developing your own leadership style, one that reflects your strengths and recognizes your areas of growth is also a key strategy to succeeding as a leader of people and place.