When enrolments dipped at Canberra Christian School and the campus looked destined for closure, its community asked the tuck shop lady to become principal and set its sights on transformation.
The tuck shop worker - Bree Hills, a former primary school teacher who attended the school and whose children followed suit - readily agreed, rolling up her sleeves to work with staff on researching innovative teaching methods and how they could be adapted for the small Mawson campus.
The team also looked at updating and expanding the now 45-year-old school, securing a grant to do so, and opened an early learning centre in an underused building.
Bucking the trend among independent schools, where enrolments grew an average of .3 per cent between February 2016 and this year, Canberra Christian School this year recorded a boost in its student population of more than 40 per cent.
Its 105 students is a far cry from the fewer than 30 first under Mrs Hills's charge when she took the reins in 2014.
"We had nothing, so you can build the best you can on top of that," she said.
Practises in Finland and America's Ron Clark Academy informed elements of Canberra Christian School's new approach. The final product is an individualised approach to learning where children are taught at their level of capability rather than age.
Regular testing, presented as class work, enables teachers to adapt a student's work to progress their understanding of a subject.
Those who need more intensive help are placed in an immersive support program where, for one term, they learn in a class of a maximum of six students for three hours a day, four days a week.
Two of the primary school's students receive tutoring in year 10 maths. When Fairfax Media visited, a year 2 class was learning about metacognition. The 2016 NAPLAN results reveal Canberra Christian School students performed above average on all measures compared to other schools.
Fun is the focus, with the theme for 2017 centred on playing for Team Jesus.
"We still follow the Australian Curriculum, which is a government requirement for all of us, we still have to make sure our outcomes are really good, but what we want to do is excite children about education and wanting to come to school every single day but also give them the confidence to be at school every single day," Mrs Hills said.
"If we can do that, they fly, and they help educate themselves."
A challenge of the school's new approach has been finding enough space to house new enrolments. Administration staff work out of a bag room and there is potential to build four new classrooms next year on top of two currently under construction.
Mrs Hills said the aim was to reach 250 students.
"We have kind of turned a pretty big corner in the last couple of years but we needed to or we were gone," she said.
"We aren't the fit for everybody, we don't work for everybody, but I haven't found anyone we haven't worked for yet."
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