From the Principal – Teachers Do More Than Teach

The VCE written examinations commenced Wednesday of this week. It is a gruelling start with three essays to be written in three hours. Our five VCE English teachers, Mrs Ceri Lloyd, Ms Vicki Spanos, Mr James Brown, Ms Gillian Hosking and Mr Darren Plunkett bookend the three hours in a supportive stance at the exam room doors, their mixed emotions disguised as they wish the girls well as they enter the hall. They wait patiently, dutifully, for 30 minutes until they too can get their hands on the Staff Copy of the examination paper. They patiently wait again until the girls journey out of the examination hall – a warm greeting and check-in with each student.

This process for each VCE subject and each VCE teacher will repeat itself every day for the next six weeks.

Our Head of English, Mrs Ceri Lloyd, in her final year in the role she has held for fifteen, could not have asked for more, when one of her English students greeted her at the end of the exam and said, “Thanks Mrs Lloyd, I could not have been better prepared”. Ceri looks forward to stepping into her new role as the Director of Teaching and Leaning at St Catherine’s next year.

Each year, on the last Friday of October, schools celebrate Australia’s ‘World Teachers’ Day’. Teachers’ Day was created by UNESCO and is celebrated in more than 100 countries around the world each year. This year, the theme for World Teachers’ Day is #BrightFuture of Teaching and represents a significant token of the awareness, understanding and appreciation displayed for the contribution that teachers make to education.

Teachers are instrumental in shaping people, with many teachers playing vastly under-recognised roles in setting high achievers on their paths. As one example, computer revolutionary Bill Gates, known for dropping out of Harvard, claims of his school Mathematics and Drama teachers, “There’s no way there would have been a Microsoft without what they did”.

The role of a teacher is compelling, with educators often energised by their mission. The student feedback, reflected by our Head of English post the English exam, defines the rewarding and fulfilling experience of a teaching career.

“Teachers do more than teach, and their impact extends far beyond the classroom.”

I have always thought great schools are a reflection of great teaching, and in my many conversations with St Catherine’s Old Girls and past parents, I have been delighted to learn of the teachers who have been instrumental in shaping St Catherine’s girls over the past 125 years.

Since our School’s foundation on 4 February 1896, St Catherine’s School has remained committed to Founding Principal, Miss Jeanie Hood’s vision, through the work of teachers and our past Principals. Women such as Miss Ruth Langley, Miss Edna Holmes, Miss Mary Davis, Mrs Dorothy Pizzey, our past Head of Junior School, Miss Anne Smith – all stewards of the School for a time. These impressive leaders and teachers at heart, were all earnestly committed to educating generations of remarkable young women.

So that today, in 2021, 125 years later, their names remain familiar to our current students and staff, as they walk the halls of the Edna Holmes Centre for Science, the Dorothy Pizzey Centre, the Ruth Langley Research and Learning Centre and, of course, the much-loved Mary Davis Centre. Our Barbreck girls arrive at School every day, journeying along Anne Smith Avenue – these are all places in our School honouring the contributions made by these remarkable educators to St Catherine’s School.

As we celebrate Teachers’ Day in Australia this year, we take this occasion to remind the global community that “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher.” This theme was chosen to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), where education is recognised as a key fundamental right. A right that cannot be fulfilled without qualified teachers.

One of the main challenges to this right worldwide is the continued shortage of teachers. There are an estimated 264 million children and youth still out of school globally, and according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the world needs to recruit almost 69 million new teachers to reach the 2030 education goal of universal primary and secondary education. This ‘teacher gap’ is more pronounced amongst vulnerable populations – girls, children with disabilities, refugee and migrant children, and impoverished children living in rural or remote areas.

Trained and qualified teachers are fundamental to the right to education.

At St Catherine’s today, we have teachers who are great activators of change for girls and who enhance their students’ learning immensely. I watch frequently teachers who encourage girls to be fearless, teach them how to harness the storm of adolescence and remind girls to question and to believe in themselves and their abilities. The qualities in those teachers are always the same, an acute interest and belief in students, a desire to challenge them and the power to inspire and uplift.

Today, we farewell three staff members, Ms Pauline van der Poel, a member of the Senior Leadership Team and renowned Careers Practitioner, who will be commencing in a new role at Xavier College. Ms van der Poel will be fondly remembered by many St Catherine’s Old Girls and current students for her invaluable advice in navigating their pathway for tertiary selections. Always at the heart of her advice has been the individual student with particular capacities, directing and expertly guiding them to make core decisions in their subject choices and requirements. She has tapped into resources enabling them to feel self-assured about their career pathways with the knowledge and ability to access and use relevant career information independently.

We also farewell Ms Jacqueline Williams, Director of Advancement, herself originally a Literature teacher. Jacqueline successfully led an ambitious campaign and harnessed the support of the community for the establishment of the Hardship Fund at our inaugural Giving Day in 2020 and again 2021. In addition to this, Jacqueline stepped enthusiastically into the campaign for the Black Box Theatre, drawing on her expertise across the Arts. Jacqueline has recently accepted a position at Melbourne University offering her opportunity of scale in her philanthropy work, with the magnitude of gifts well defined in the tertiary sector. Jacqueline also hopes to seek professional opportunities abroad.

In the Junior School, we also farewell Mrs Samantha Roussis who has provided administrative support to Ms Karen McArdle over the past 12 months. Previous to working in the Junior School, Mrs Roussis worked in the Admissions Office in the Senior School. Mrs Roussis has taken up a position in a legal firm and we will miss her sunny smile, warmth and enthusiasm. We wish her well in her future role.

We wish these three staff members the best in their future endeavours.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal