MANY parents that Mount Sinai College (MSC) principal Phil Roberts talks to were once his students.
The much-loved educator this year marks 30 years at the school, the last 17 at the helm.
“I have parents in my school [that] are people I taught. I have a community that are enrolling their children because they’ve trusted so much of what we have been a part of – what I’ve been a part of – for so long,” he told The AJN.
“It’s probably one of the greatest pleasures of the role, the number of people I know in the community and the strength of those relationships.”
Both the school and Roberts have come a long way since the then-public school teacher replied to a job advertisement in the late 1980s.
“I came down Snape Street and I drove up and down, I couldn’t find it because it was just this little house hidden behind a frangipani tree,” he recalled.
Having spent a year on a kibbutz, he said he instantly felt comfortable at the school despite not being Jewish.
“I started off as a teacher in the classroom and I just felt then, as I feel now, a sense of warmth in the community. It was a kind of glow that didn’t exist in the government schools,” he said.
“It was only a very small community at that time. The school was in many respects very, very communal – parents would come and work in the gardens, they would have a clean-up on Sunday and we’d throw rubbish in a big truck together, it was kibbutz-like in those times.”
It was after a three-year stint away at S.C.E.G.G.S. Redlands – “I probably hated every minute of it” – that Roberts truly realised Mount Sinai was home.
A short message from Principal Phil Roberts, who is giving some advice on how to manage schooling at home with the kids….ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE!https://youtu.be/BmZtIzIwEWY
“I got a call from [then principal] Harry Taibel … and so I came back as a deputy principal,” he said.
“That was a real homecoming. It made me realise how much I missed the school and how much I belonged here.”
Since becoming principal upon Taibel’s retirement, Roberts has continued to cultivate the many relationships that form the school’s unique culture – with students, parents and grandparents, the adjoining Maroubra Synagogue, and staff – many who have similarly worked at the school long-term.
“They don’t want to leave, they love it. And I love them,” he said.
Asked the most important thing a Mount Sinai graduate should take away, he replied, “To be a mensch. We really focus as much attention on the calibre of the individual as we do on those academics.
“What matters to us is the person you are, the kindness you express, the compassion you feel and the extent to which you are able to stamp your own mark on the community.”
Noting that bringing Roberts back was “a wise decision”, Taibel said MSC “has been blessed” to have him as principal over the last 17 years.
“When I came to MSC Phil was young, charismatic and loved and admired by his students. He was a superb educator,” he recalled.
“His success is due to his intellect, fine leadership skills and his devotion to the education of our youth. May he long continue to inspire the pupils, teachers and parents of the college.”
MSC president Anthony Berman said, “Phil is an exceptional leader, teacher, coach, adviser and deep thinker about everything to do with schooling.
“He was the driving force behind using technology, not for technology’s sake, but for integrating it into the curriculum and ensuring that our school was one of eight schools in the whole of Australia that was made an Apple Distinguished School,” he continued.
“Phil does not look for credit, and often reminds us that ‘the burden of leadership is great, but we must accept it for what it is and make tough decisions’.
“On behalf of the whole community, I thank him for him for his unrelenting dedication.”
Immediate past president Tim Greenstein said, “The contribution and impact that Phil has made over these years has been enormous and the college would not be in the place it is today if it was not for the dedication, leadership and innovation that Phil continues to bring.”
Life governor Tony Snoyman said Roberts’ commitment “has been exemplary”.
“His constant search for knowledge makes him a voracious reader and one of the foremost leaders in Australian pedagogy,” he said.
“Phil is an example to everyone who has the pleasure of crossing his path. We thank him for his service to Mount Sinai College and wish him and his family continued good health, prosperity and success.”