WHEN she quit high school at 15, got married at 17 and became a mother at 18, Erica Prosser never envisaged she would one day be an award-winning principal.
The Holy Spirit College principal was the only Queensland teacher to win an Australian Scholarships Group National Excellence in Teaching Award earlier this year.
She received a Leadership and Development Award in Melbourne for her dedication and contribution in helping disengaged students succeed in life.
Despite her achievements, she refused to take all the credit for her win.
“It’s thanks to all the hard work that our staff at the Cooktown and Cairns campuses do behind the scenes and on a daily basis with our young people to keep them engaged and finding different ways to keep them on track and develop that sense of hope,” she said. “It’s the team that makes the leader look good.
“Without that really good team a leader doesn’t look all that flash.”
Mrs Prosser can relate to the students at Holy Spirit.
It wasn’t until her son was in Year 9 and her daughter in Year 11 that she went back to school to finish Year 12.
She studied further to go on and become a teacher when she was 41.
Since then, she always had a passion for helping students who were not doing well in mainstream schools.
She taught in remote Northern Territory and Western Australian schools before taking up her position at Holy Spirit.
Now into its third year, the college has already made an enormous impact on disengaged students.
“It is going way beyond expectations,” Mrs Prosser said. “We have young people who are in school-based apprenticeships, some who have gained traineeships, others in full apprenticeships and other young people in school-based traineeships.
“Some have moved back into mainstream education and others are doing TAFE courses at the moment.”
Other students have been recognised for their artistic abilities.
The Holy Spirit campus in Cairns has 60 students and Cooktown has 29.
The students at both campuses know about Mrs Prosser’s past experiences.
“If I hadn’t have had that background, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do here with these kids,” she said.
“I can say to them that I’ve done stuff and achieved what I wanted to achieve through my way of working.
“I’m really passionate about young people being able to find themselves, find the opportunities out there and walk a bit shorter path than I did.”