Anne Marschall has a love for other people’s stories.
The power of stories is what this principal of Good Shepherd Lutheran School, Angaston has drawn inspiration from for years.
But perhaps, to others, her own story is not so dissimilar in effect.
“My story’s simple and it’s beautiful and it’s tragic and it’s extraordinary, it’s all of those things,” she says.
For the most part, it begins along the railway line of the Nullarbor in the tiny, isolated town of Rawlinna where one family from the UK – Anne’s – chose to settle in 1974.
Here, her schooling was wildly different to the schooling of her Angaston students now.
“At primary school, there were two rooms that had a very basic setup,” Anne reminisces.
“The principal was one of the teachers for the upper primaries and his wife taught the junior primaries.
“I did a lot of my high school by correspondence, some of it in the back of the primary school, and some of it at home.
“So school for me was not very traditional.”
After finishing university, Anne found herself back in a small-town school like the one she’d grown to know back home, this time on the teaching end of things.
She taught in Murtoa, Victoria for a few years, and describes it as “glorious”.
“It was just a beautiful, supportive community, the kind of place in the country where everybody looks after you, everyone pitches in,” she says.
“And the kids would just drop by all the time. On the weekend, they’d be on the veranda when you come home from shopping saying, ‘Hi!’
After soaking up all the niceties of country life, Anne and her husband, John, headed to Adelaide to be nearer to family, but here she received news that would change her narrative completely.
At just 28 years old, Anne had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“It was huge,” she remembers.
“It was one of those existential moments where you go, ‘Alright, what have I not done that I want to do?’
“So my husband and I went to Europe for a while, and then I came back and I enrolled in a master’s degree, because it was one of those things that I’d deferred and deferred in the back of my head thinking that there was plenty of time for that.”
During that time, Anne and John also started the process of adoption.
“Everything that happens in our journey shapes us, and if it hadn’t happened, I’d never have met my beautiful children, Josh and Maggie.”
Fast forward to having beat cancer, raised two children and gained a master’s degree, Anne was determined to take on her next challenge, and Good Shepherd was lucky enough to be in her sights.
“I saw the job here and I thought, I think I’m ready to take on a school,” she says.
“So my husband and I drove out here, and we looked around the school and we thought, well, it’s just gorgeous.
“I remember when I went to the interview thinking, if I don’t get it, that’s okay, but darn, I’m really going to miss this!”
Thankfully, she didn’t have to miss it at all.
“When the chairman rang me and said, ‘You’ve got the job,’ I just remember jumping up and down!” she laughs.
It’s now been 10 years since she received that wonderful phone call, and Good Shepherd has had many an achievement under her leadership.
“This school has just changed almost from the inside out,” Anne says.
“And that’s not all down to me, we’ve had some amazing boards, but I’m just so glad and so happy that I’ve been able to be principal during that time.”
There have been significant building projects, a new nature play area, playground re-development, curriculum reform and a new uniform being rolled out in the new year.
A common denominator in many of these projects is students’ inclusion in decision-making.
“A big change has been the rise of student voice,” Anne says.
“The ideas for what we’ve done came from the children themselves.
“The architect sat down with senior students and said, ‘What makes you happy in your learning space? What do you never want to see again? What do you want to see more of?’”
In her recent principal’s review, the students were asked what they thought of Mrs Marschall, and they replied, “She listens to us.”
What it seems to all come back to is Anne’s love for stories, and her passion for truly listening to other people’s.
“I love working with people because people are just so interesting and everyone’s got a story, much like my own life story,” she says.
“Listening to stories is a crucial part of what I do. Listening to a child’s story, listening to a family’s story.
“Everyone has a story, and when you know the story, you can work together to create the right environment, the right conditions, for a child and their family to flourish.
“That’s what gives me the greatest sense of satisfaction in my work.”