Passion for equal opportunities drives new Principal

By Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese, 3 April 2024
New Principal at St Monica’s Primary North Parramatta, Fiona Bylsma. Image: CSPD/Supplied


Experienced educator and school leader, Fiona Bylsma has welcomed the opportunity to return to a school in Western Sydney, the area she grew up in.

Taking up the role of principal at St Monica’s Primary North Parramatta this year, Fiona was comforted to be based at a school that was familiar to her, living locally and having visited in her capacity as a leader in the Diocese of Parramatta. At the same time, she is excited by the growth and development of the school.

“To come back in and to see how the school has evolved to meet the learning needs of the students has been something I have found to be a big positive. The learning spaces here are amazing.” she said.

During her 33 years in education, Fiona has taught in all three Catholic dioceses in the wider Sydney area – Broken Bay, Parramatta and Sydney. She is grateful for the opportunity to gain insights into many different educational environments and learning communities. Fiona’s experiences have led her to become an advocate for quality education for all students, particularly those in Western Sydney.

“Good educators are so important for our kids because with the right education, they can go on to achieve so much,” Fiona said.

This desire to have a positive impact has kept Fiona committed to teaching and is part of what drew her into school leadership, a pathway she never thought she’d find herself on.

“If you had told me when I started teaching that I would end up in school leadership, I probably would have laughed. But as I’ve gone along in my career I realised it is something that I’m meant to do,” Fiona said. “I can see how important it is to develop in people the understanding that they have the ability to make a significant contribution and to show them that they are valued in the profession. This starts with leaders valuing their work,” she said.

New Principal at St Monica’s Primary North Parramatta, Fiona Bylsma, with students. Image: CSPD/Supplied

Supporting staff in their development and providing opportunities for them to explore their leadership potential is a focus for Fiona. Inspired by the positive mentoring she received as an early career teacher, Fiona knows that modelling great leadership is critical to ensuring teachers feel supported and encouraged throughout their careers.

“I am very passionate about the profession of teaching and ensuring we have a sustainable future, putting the time and energy into our teachers and mentoring them to have a fulfilling career in teaching,” she said.

Student wellbeing is another big focus. Drawing on her own schooling experiences, she can relate to the pressures students face and supports a balanced approach to learning that puts wellbeing front of mind.

“As a student, I was someone who sometimes got overwhelmed by things. I was quite a bright student and I had high expectations of myself,” she said. “This is something that I bring to my leadership – I have this sense that for kids who are high achievers we do also need to ensure that their needs are met, because sometimes they are the higher level anxiety kids as well.”

Joining the small, close-knit school community of St Monica’s, Fiona is looking forward to building personal connections with her staff, students and their families and to living out the Mercy values that underpin the school. Having attended Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta, the Mercy charism resonates strongly with Fiona.

Fiona’s determination and commitment to her faith spill out of the school gates and into her personal life, with her current goal being to walk the Camino de Santiago or Way of St James. She had aimed to complete the pilgrimage in 2020, but COVID-19 had other plans. Now back on the agenda, Fiona hopes to achieve this milestone in the near future.

With thanks to Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese.


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