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A Catholic Independent Day & Boarding School for Girls years 7 - 12

Joanna Spanjaard

Engineer and Director

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Joanna Spanjaard is currently working as a Director in the risk management team at Deloitte. Graduating from Stuartholme School in 1986, she went on to study mechanical engineering at the University of Queensland.

From there she travelled oversees and interstate working as an Aerospace Engineer before returning to Brisbane. She is the mother of three children, two of whom are current Stuartholme students.

Read Joanna’s Transcript

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What do you enjoy most about the work you are currently doing?

In my currently work I assist all our different clients with identifying their risks and ensuring they manage those risks to get the most value out of their business. I love my role because it’s about working with the business to help them achieve their objectives. I get to work with all sorts of different people, and different organisations; whether it is the public sector, insurance, or engineering.

How did your time at Stuartholme influence what you are doing now?

I came to Stuartholme in 1985, so I was here for Year 11 and 12. I came over from New Zealand and knew no one at Stuartholme. It was fairly traumatic as a teenager to come into a new environment and make new friends. It was certainly hard for the first couple of months, but fairly quickly I made some really strong friendships which have lasted for; I hate to say how long it has been since I graduated, over 25 years now! My daughter’s godmother is one of my friends from Stuartholme. As a group of friends, we get together regularly every year to catch up and when we get together it’s just like old times, the same old jokes, the same old stories – it’s just lovely. So how did that influence me, in terms of my journey? Those strong friendships enabled me to make some choices about where I went and what I did after finishing school here and going onto university. Also the environment at Stuartholme was very supportive, and encouraged you to develop in your own way, there wasn’t set pathways in terms of what was expected from you. It’s a very nurturing environment, but one where you take responsibility for yourself and your choices. That was a really good foundation for me going onto to university because once you step out that door you realize you are not going to be handheld through your exams. You’re not going to be assisted in terms of the decisions that you’re making. The foundation at Stuartholme was really one where they gave you support but really empowered you to make your own decisions.

Who were the most memorable people from your time at School who made an impact on you?

I had a couple of great teachers. Mrs Heather Barber, my advanced maths teacher in Year 11 and 12. She was an absolutely beautiful lady and she made maths seem so much fun. She was the person who taught me that maths was actually really something enjoyable, not something that you just did at school, because you needed to. She had a love of learning, and a love of maths, and I really look back and think that was a really lovely time. Then Sister Rita Carroll, she was my physics teacher. She again had this love of physics and it really came through in her teaching. We were probably a little bit of a crazy class, and it never bothered her; she just continued on teaching – she was a real treasure.

Any advice to girls attending Stuartholme?

I think my advice to girls at Stuartholme now would be enjoy the environment that you’re in. Enjoy the fact that it allows you the flexibility and the foundation in which to make your own decisions and start making those decisions. At the end of the day you are the one who is in control in terms of where you’re going to go in life. So take the opportunity now to start making those decisions in a safe, nurturing environment. Those opportunities will come thicker and faster as you go through life so start making them early rather than putting it off and saying, well that’s mum and dad’s role or that’s the teachers job to tell me what I need to do – take responsibility for those decisions yourself.

Why did you choose Stuartholme for your daughters?

I’ve got three daughters and two of them are coming to Stuartholme shortly. They’re twins and we certainly went through a rigorous process of choosing schools. We looked at various schools but Stuartholme really stood out for me. Particularly for my husband as well because of the care in which they showed when we went through the interview process. The girls really saw it was about them, and they had the power to choose where they wanted to go in life, and that Stuartholme was going to assist them with that. We really came away from here feeling that Stuartholme, as it was when I was here 25 years ago, is really about working with the families and the girls to enable them to make decisions about where they want to go, both in their school but later on in life.

Stuartholme is going to support them in the other aspects of their life. They’re going to come out of here as a well-rounded individual. I think as you move on in life and you look back, you realize how important it is to have a range of interests in your life to make sure there’s a balance. Work is only one part. You need to have your friendships. You need to have your interests to make sure you have that balance through life.


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