Teacher at Cabbage Tree Island Public School and
Lennox Head Community Preschool
Birthplace: Coffs Harbour, grew up in Grafton
Family: Husband Adam Gordon, daughters Frankie (41/2)and Poppy (3months), Mum Jannette, sister Tara
Star Sign: Aquarius
Favourite Food: Summer fruits
There are not many young families and kids in Lennox Head who don’t know Sophie Leonard and her mother and sister Jannette and Tara. In many ways they are the annointed mothers of Lennox, having had a hand in nurturing and developing young hearts and minds across town for years.
Sophie grew up immersed in preschool life because her mother’s career was in managing and directing these crucial organisations. In 2001 they moved to Lennox so that Jannette could take up a position as Director at the Lennox Head Community Preschool, where she remains to this day.
‘Mum is our rock,’ says Sophie. ‘It’s always been the three girls, and mum has just always been there for us and still is now that she’s a grandmother.’
Sophie says she always maintained ‘she’d never be a teacher’. So she began her career in events management and marketing. But one day, as usual, she ran into a family she knew in the street and immediately knelt down to speak to the children. The mother said to her, ‘Do you know you always speak to the children and not the parents?’
‘it was an epiphany,’ says Sophie, ‘I knew I couldn’t fight it anymore.’ She went back to university to study teaching.
During her studies at Southern Cross University, she approached Cabbage Tree Island Public School for a practical placement. She loved it (and they loved her) and after she graduated they offered her a job taking the transition class – taking kids from preschool to primary.
At that time she was already working at the Lennox Head Community Preschool, but decided to do both part time. Although she is still on maternity leave with little Poppy, she is employed by both schools.
‘They are very different jobs, each with their own challenges and rewards,’ she says.
‘When it comes down to it, I’m just passionate about seeing all the kids succeed, it doesn’t matter which school or town. I want them all to be proud of who they are and what they can achieve.’
Sophie says she has built a strong bond with the local Indigenous community. It’s a connection that means a lot in her family, having two Aboriginal daughters. Adam, Sophie’s partner, is an Aboriginal man from the Kamilaroi nation but who grew up here on Bundjalung land.
What’s the best thing about your job? No matter what is going on in life the kids can always put a smile on your face with something they say or do. Being able to help the kids, make a difference to them and see them thrive.
Worst thing? I find it hard to let go sometimes, because my job is my life. I’m always thinking about it and what more needs to be done. Adam often says to me ‘leave it at work,’ but I find that difficult.
Hobbies? I play League tag in Byron and hockey in Ballina.
Work Life Philosophy? Do something you love.