The principal at South Australia’s The Hills Christian Community School was chuffed with the Principals Australia Institute award.

“I met John Laing on a couple of occasions myself, early in my principalship,” Riemann says.

“And he was a person very committed to professional development and the interaction between government and non-government school principals, and that’s been part of who I am in my more than 30 years of being a principal...

“It was also an honour to receive that commentary from my colleagues in the Independent Primary School Heads Association (IPSHA), because I’ve been part of their community now for 30 years as well,” he adds.

According to the school leader, being part of a professional association is crucial to the growth of any educator.

He says IPSHA in particular played a significant part in shaping the principal he is today.

In addition he has sat on the Australian Primary Principals Association’s National Education Committee, which involves primary school principals from the Catholic, independent and government school systems.

“That was set up probably 15 or more years ago,” Riemann explains.

“Now, that was very groundbreaking work, because the systems had not sat down and talked to each other a lot ... so I was one of the people that was a strong supporter of that move – that we do things together in the principalship.”

This philosophy of sharing started for Riemann early in his career as a leader.

“I was blessed straight away because my first principalship was at a school called Pilgrim School, at Aberfoyle Park in South Australia.

“There was a Catholic school on the same premises and two government schools. And so the four principals, we met weekly, we did our professional learning together, but it also meant that I had access to the government school principals’ professional learning and the Catholic,” he says.

“I became very committed very quickly, to saying ‘let’s do this together, we’re not in competition with each other, this is all about the benefit of children and their learning, let’s see what we can do together.”

Collaboration is also a key part of professional development within The Hills Christian Community School.

“In terms of the professional development, a lot of ours actually happens in teaching and learning teams, so all of our teachers are in teams of, generally, three people,” Riemann says.

In their teams, staff seek new information, plan their pre- and post assessments together, they plan rotations where they take each other’s classes, and do observations offering each other feedback.

“Sometimes, I think in our heads we say we have to go to a conference for professional learning, whereas the best conversation is with a competent colleague who teaches right next door and giving feedback to each other, that’s probably the best professional learning there can be,” Riemann says.