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Former Benalla College principal farewells teaching career

Catherine Pianta recognised as a positive role model for other educators at her retirement dinner.

July 3, 2014 3:20am

Retiring Benalla teacher and principal Cathy Pianta with former Benalla College School Council presidents Noel Baumgarten and Gary Harper.


Leader of the Benalla Regeneration Project and former Benalla College principal Catherine Pianta celebrated her retirement from educational leadership last week with colleagues, friends and family.

Ms Pianta held many roles throughout her long career in education, including educational options consultant for the region, principal of Beechworth and Wilmot Road primary schools, assistant principal and principal of Benalla College and leader of the Benalla Regeneration Project.

Ms Pianta was also a leader of the Benalla Schools Cluster and the Trade Training Centre Consortium together with being a long-serving and voluntary member of the board of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

She is renowned for providing a positive educational role model for her staff.

Former Benalla College principal Thomas Greene and former DEECD regional director Adele Pottenger said Ms Pianta always prioritised her students.

‘‘No educational leader we know in our careers has displayed higher levels of energy, integrity, fortitude and passion,’’ they said in a tribute that was read out at Ms Pianta’s retirement dinner.

‘‘These qualities derive from, and complement, an unshakeable belief in the potential and development of young people, regardless of their circumstance and the challenges they might face.

‘‘Long before it became a fashionable mantra of others in the profession, you always put students at the centre in your daily work and ensured that what was in their best short and long-term interests actually informed and guided your decision-making and the causes you championed.’’

In 2007 Ms Pianta was awarded a Research Fellowship by Victorian Association of Secondary School Principals to visit Finland and later share her insights at the Australian Secondary Principals’ conference.

Benalla College was recognised as a high achieving Victorian school and in 2010 Ms Pianta represented the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in Kuala Lumpur to share her strategies for leading this success.

Setting high standards for all staff, Benalla College developed an inclusive culture which led it to become a ‘lighthouse school’ in this area. These achievements together with strong links to the local community, mentoring of aspirant principals and support from the school community were highlighted when Ms Pianta was awarded the 2011 Hume Leadership Excellence Award.

Under Ms Pianta’s leadership, Benalla College won a Victorian Education Excellence Award for work in youth pathways and transitions. This resulted in recent educational research in Boston and New York City, which is now being shared with other Victorian schools and career networks.

In 2012 Ms Pianta received high distinctions in a Master of Literacy degree at the University of Melbourne which assisted her to implement strategies to improve literacy from early years through to Year 12.

In November 2012 she was made a fellow of the Australian Council of Educational Leadership in recognition of her leadership over many years to establish child-centred learning cultures in all the schools that she has led.

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