Meet Courtney Hartog, Wellbeing Officer
Courtney joined our staff at the start of 2023, bringing passion, energy and empathy to her role as Wellbeing Officer, which sees her work closely with Senior School students, families and the College Wellbeing team to create safe, healthy and supportive learning environments.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Tasmania in Psychological Science and then went on to do my Honours at Monash University, before starting my Master’s in Psychology. In the interim, I worked as a Child Safety Officer, as well as at a women’s shelter in Sydney for 18 months. After moving back to Hobart, I did a small stint in a vocational setting, which involved helping people return to work after experiencing mental health issues. I’m currently provisionally registered as a psychologist, but by the end of this year, I should hold general registration, which is very exciting. General registration requires a minimum of six years of university training and supervised experience, so it’s been a long haul! This is my first fulltime job in a school setting, which is fun!
Why are you so passionate about your work?
I love being part of people’s journeys of self-improvement and seeing them grow in confidence and engage more positively in their learning, work or sport. It’s rewarding to see students who needed extra support early on and who, by Year 10, are doing really well and meeting their goals and dreams. I think that’s one of the reasons why I was originally drawn to psychology as a profession. Given I’m still young myself, I feel like I’m relatable to the girls and I find it easy to establish a rapport with them. I remember what it was like to struggle through Year 10; I remember what it was like to do badly in a subject, and I can share my personal experience with them.
What do you most enjoy about being a Wellbeing Officer?
A highlight for me is seeing our students thrive. I look forward to watching them transition from Year 7 through to their senior secondary years and being on this journey with them. I also love working in a team environment and the diversity of my role.
What does ‘wellbeing’ mean to you?
Wellbeing for me encompasses so many different factors, from social supports and exercise, to sleep and diet, which all have to work in unison. If I’m not actively working on each of these areas, then I will notice that I start to get tired and feel run down and generally not as good as I should be feeling. So, for me, it’s a question of how I can do each of these things on a small level in order to contribute to an overall sense of good wellbeing and health. Sometimes it’s a juggling act: exercise might not happen on the weekend, but that’s OK because instead, I’m spending more time with my family and friends. Ultimately, it’s about balance and creating time for yourself. Everyone leads such busy lives, and it can be easy to neglect those smaller things that really make such a big difference but being empathetic and not setting strict rules or expectations for yourself, while still having realistic goals, is important.
What are some of the ways that we can support our students’ wellbeing, resilience and inclusion here at the College?
While I haven’t been directly involved in the implementation of the Pillars Project and the Resilience Project, coming into the College I could see first-hand how much work had already been done in creating a space dedicated to the wellbeing of our students. This is so crucial because if students don’t have good wellbeing, then it’s hard for them to engage in their learning and have positive relationships with others.
What are some of the key challenges facing young people today?
A lot of the work I do with students is around managing stress, especially academic stress, and reducing symptoms of anxiety. Life post-COVID-19 is something that a lot of young people are still learning to navigate and adapt to. For a year or two, school didn’t look ‘normal’ to them, they were at home much more and didn’t get to connect with their peers and extra-curriculars. A second challenge continues to be social media and its impact on young people’s confidence and self-esteem. At the end of the day, kids don’t really ever get to turn off because their phones are always with them—their problems follow them home and into their bedroom. I think St Mary’s College has done a great job in creating an environment where the conversation around wellbeing is accepted and everyone is happy to be a part of it.
If you could turn back time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Probably just to believe in myself! When I was young, I had so much self-doubt about whether I was smart enough to do x, y and z. I would tell my younger self to just trust the process and be kinder to myself. I often look back now and think, what did I gain from being self-critical?
What’s something that students may not know about you?
That I love to read! I read every single night—mostly random books on my phone, but if I’m away or on holiday, I’ll pick up a physical book. I find it very relaxing, and it helps me get to sleep. I’ve just finished reading The Devil Wears Prada—a bit of a throwback!
Describe yourself in three words:
Fun, generous and empathetic.
Go-to coffee order?
A skim latte.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to go to pilates and spend time at my shack on Bruny.