Can you give us some background on your career in teaching?
After completing a Bachelor of Music and a Graduate Diploma in Teaching, Secondary, I was very fortunate to gain my first teaching position at St Peter’s School, Cambridge, and two years later to become Director of Music. At St Peter’s I was able to teach a range of things from NCEA to International Baccalaureate, Jazz Bands, Choirs and Musically Direct productions. I had a great mentor at this school and was lucky to be surrounded by some very talented teachers. I was also involved in the Boarding side, which gave me an even wider appreciation of the role a school can play in a student’s life.
After having my own children, an opportunity came up at Southwell School, as the Director of Music. I had always been interested in Music Education from year 1 to 13, so made the move to primary. At Southwell I have learnt so much more about teaching Music and being in the classroom. One of the highlights has been upskilling in the Kodaly method, which is a highly effective method of music education to teach this age group. I have musically directed the productions with an adult orchestra, improved the quality of our Itinerant programme (bringing on highly qualified teachers), grown the department to need a second music teacher, assisted in starting a Suzuki programme and enjoyed taking many extracurricular groups. I have been teaching for 14 years and look forward to many more.
Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people to set you on your way to a career in music teaching?
I felt lucky to have some amazing music teachers when I was at school. When I was at school the only subjects I was good at or enjoyed were the arts, history and maths, so it was an easy career choice. Do what you love!
You recently won an ISNZ Honours Award for Service to Music and the Performing Arts. Can you tell us a bit about the music programme at Southwell, and the school’s successful Chapel Choirs?
We have an extensive music programme which consists of three large choirs (Girls Chapel Choir, Boys’ Chapel Choir and a Junior Choir), voice for life choral training programme, multiple instrumental groups (Symphony Orchestra, Windband, Jazz Band, String Orchestra, Rockbands, Ensembles), a Suzuki programme, Kodaly based music curriculum and 20 itinerant teachers.
The choirs are a particular focus of mine, with many chapel and church services, trips and concerts (at school and out in the community). The choirs are auditioned with children from years 5-8. They win many awards at the local Kids Sing Festival - the Boys’ Choir won in 2018 and the Girls’ Choir won this year. I was fortunate enough to take both choirs away this year on a trip to Sydney, the school's first ever overseas trip.
How do you encourage and nurture a love of music in your students?
I truly believe if you love what you are doing and teaching, then your passion and positivity will flow through to the students. My teaching philosophy is about being positive and nurturing. I open up my heart to my students, I love all of them, and I tell them this. You can find something positive in every student. My Boys’ choir call me mum at school and at the end of a girls’ choir rehearsal I am known to usually end with ‘’Love you, bye’’.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Getting to do what I love, singing and playing mainly classical music and working with great students and adults.
What do you most want to achieve in your role?
Helping students appreciate the musical arts for what they are. An important part of being a human is to feel and express emotion, to make connections with other people without having to speak. I also want to help instill a lifelong love for creating and enjoying music in my students.
What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent school?
I get to do what I want to do and think is best, and I'm appreciated for my skill set. I appreciate teaching in small classes and getting to know the students.
What are your thoughts on the benefits of independent schooling for students?
In most of the independent schools I know about or have worked in they have amazing facilities, outstanding programmes (Performing Arts, Sport etc) and opportunities that you just don’t get in public schools.
I also value the faith-based approach to education. At Southwell, we start every school day together in the chapel.