Its motto is "Together We Succeed" but it is through supporting the needs of every single student that James Fallon High School shines, says principal Jennifer Parrett.
The 740-student school at North Albury has been crowned Regional School of the Year in the 2021 Australian Education Awards.
Its jewels are the staff and students who make up what is an incredibly diverse learning environment, according to Mrs Parrett, who says the award is a "shot in the arm" after the challenges of COVID-19.
The school prides itself on "seeking to ensure every student is known, valued and cared for".
"Our vision at the school is to personalise learning for every child," she explains.
"We have so many different types of learners and it is important to support every young person at their point of need.
"That is why we offer so many different curriculum opportunities, because one size doesn't fit all."
An overview of student demographics certainly speaks to that diversity:
- Currently there are 84 students who speak English as an additional dialect (and there is an Intensive English Centre for students of refugee background);
- There are 97 students with a 'disability confirmation' and an eight-class Diverse Learning faculty;
- There are 143 students of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background;
- The socio-economic status of many families is one of hardship, with 63 per cent of students in the lowest socio-economic quartile.
Mrs Parrett, who officially took over as principal in 2016, says rather than see these factors as a challenge, staff see opportunities to help young people grow and learn - "and potentially improve their life outcomes".
Innovation has been critical to that success.
The school is the only one in the southern half of the state to be engaged with Big Picture Education Australia, according to Mrs Parrett.
Its program is based around "passion-based" learning where a personalised plan is designed around a student's interests, linking back to the curriculum.
Each student has a personalised learning plan designed around their passions and interests, with links to the curriculum.
Each term, they exhibit their work as part of their assessment.
"It's the coolest design," Mrs Parrett enthuses.
At its heart is the aim to nurture creativity, curiosity and independence.
Certainly COVID has put a huge dent in another area of strength for James Fallon, which acts as a hub for creative and performing arts, including the Wiradjuri Echoes Dance Troupe.
Offering dance in the curriculum, the school also supports students from Albury and Murray high schools and several independent schools, Ms Parrett explains.
While opportunities for sport, leadership, drama and academic competition have been hampered, she says COVID-19 demonstrated the school's strengths around adaptability.
"It became a really fluid space operationally," Mrs Parrett acknowledges of the task of running a school on the Border over the past 18 months.
She pays tribute to the teachers who understood the "sense of urgency and need" and went above and beyond to accommodate rolling changes.
The school's "open door policy" for families continued through lockdown logistics, creatively arrived at via care packs and "roll call" groups where staff contacted 10 families each week to check in on everybody.
"It was a really anxious time for families," she says.
"(But) we put students at the centre ...
"And we are really looking forward to coming back and doing all the things students love doing."
A wellbeing hub is being established thanks to a Fair Education grant and the school continues to work with local universities, The Albury Project, YES Youth and Family Services, Headspace and countless community organisations to improve outcomes for all who walk through the gates.
It's clear this equation of collaboration, creativity and commitment is working.
Suspension rates have dropped and attendance is up.
Further Mrs Parrett is immensely proud of the fact that 55 out of 78 students in the 2021 HSC class achieved tertiary entry to the institution of their choice - all before anyone sat a written exam.
Two students are going on to study medical science and four to law.
Partnerships with La Trobe see young people transition to university from Year 11.
"Our students are always more than a number," she states.
It's clear Mrs Parrett's own passion for the job hasn't waned.
But she insists it's a team effort - and the award is a reflection of that.
"Our school community is positive and pro-active," she says.
"I truly believe teaching is the most important profession in the world ... looking after other people's young people."