Thursday 02 February, 2023
New leadership in the Junior School
Waking up with a sense of excitement for what the day will bring is how Diocesan’s new Head of the Junior School, Sue Cattell, views her chosen career. And she wants the same for all the students and teachers under her care.

Sue joins Dio after over eight years as Principal at Milford School, preceded by four years as Deputy Principal at Takapuna Normal Intermediate and eight years at Kristin School. She has also worked as an International Baccalaureate (IB) workshop leader and school evaluator for the past 17 years, travelling within Asia-Pacific, to work with many schools.

She says early childhood and primary-aged children are her favourite groups, with the learning environment providing the opportunity to explore, inquire and experience new things. It’s this sense of adventure and excitement about learning that she wants her students to go home with every day.

“I will be bringing my energy and passion for lifelong learning to Dio, ensuring the students have as many opportunities as possible, so they find what brings them joy, and perhaps uncover a talent they didn’t know they had. I aim to ensure there are many opportunities for the students to have agency and to be self-directed learners and leaders.”

It’s not just students that she sees as learners, but everyone in the teaching team. Having recently completed her Master of Educational Leadership, she hopes to inspire and encourage others to continue their learning, taking opportunities to grow themselves and their leadership.

Sue is passionate about the IB programme, and in particular the Primary Years Programme run at Diocesan.

“It teaches students big concepts that are important through life. Students follow purposeful inquiry that ensures they are actively involved in their learning, following their interests, and building on their capacity through voice, choice and ownership. It’s such a great framework for teaching and, as Dio runs the IB programme across the school, students are well set up for long-term authentic learning.”

Sue took a sabbatical in 2021 to conduct research into the glass ceilings that are sometimes unintentionally placed on students. She strives to create an environment where there are no such ceilings, where students can grow beyond expectations and surprise themselves and others. She mentions one student she taught, and has never forgotten, who would have upside down and backwards days, even to the extent of mirror writing all day. Sue recognised and celebrated her uniqueness, something she believes is essential for all neuro-diverse students. That student is now a doctor and is an inspiring young woman.

Says Sue: “The experience of teaching that particular student taught me a lot about our students not needing to fit into a box, and how, as a school, we can work to help them be successful without stifling what makes them special.”

Sue lives on Herald Island, next to the water and says it’s this closeness to nature and time with her family that recharges her every night. When she’s not on the water paddle boarding or kayaking, she’s looking at the sea with a good book and coffee in hand. She is surrounded by teachers at work and at home – both her husband and two of her three children are involved in education.

Asked what drew her to Dio, Sue says: “Having been involved in leading IB workshops at Dio over the past few years, I have always felt a special warmth that exudes from the staff. Dio has a very good reputation as a school of excellence and is highly thought of. I am excited to be joining this community and look forward to meeting parents and students. My door is always open and I welcome the opportunity to talk about how we can deliver the best possible experience for every student.”


Nicole Lewis, Junior School Acting Deputy Principal

Sue will be supported in her role by Nicole Lewis, who has become the Junior School Acting Deputy Principal.

Nicole will be known to many at Dio as a teacher in the Junior School, Year 6 Dean and a water polo champion. She’s also a third-generation alumna, returning to the School in 2018 after first teaching at Bucklands Beach Intermediate and then being lured to France to play water polo in Bordeaux.

Nicole returned to New Zealand to prepare for World League and World Champs with the New Zealand Water Polo team, while working at Auckland Normal Intermediate, and says one of her proudest moments was wearing the Silver Fern and representing New Zealand on the world stage.

Along with her teaching role at Dio, Nicole is also the Primary Years Programme Coordinator, and oversaw the Junior School’s International Baccalaureate 5-year review in 2020.

“We received incredible feedback from the Evaluators as one of the best PYP schools in the world and were encouraged to share our practice with other IB PYP schools.”

Nicole believes Dio is a special place and says it’s the Dio community who make her want to come to work each day. “It is unique and there’s nothing like being part of the Dio family. Every day as I walk past School House, I’m so proud to be teaching at Dio. It is such a special place, with passionate girls who love learning, inspiring colleagues, and a supportive parent community. The students are the changemakers and leaders of the future and I feel fortunate to be part of their learning journeys. They inspire me to do my best, every day, for them.”

Nicole says she hopes to inspire students to follow their passions, to be risk takers in their learning and help them to develop open mindedness, and empathy for those around them and the environment. “It’s important for me to grow leaders in the Junior School and ensure our girls are knowledgeable, confident, kind and active young women who make a difference in their communities.”

She’s looking forward to supporting Sue and working with the Dio team to continue building on the excellent reputation, pastoral care and learning environment in the Junior School.

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