Profile: Kerri Fitzgerald, Head of Drama, Medbury School

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Describe your role at Medbury, and what attracted you to the school.

My role is full time Head of Drama (including Dance), teaching Years 4-8, and I also cover Language Learning for Years 7 & 8 (Māori and French). Initially, I was attracted to the school because I had visited Medbury a few times when I was working as a drama adviser for UC Advisory Services, plus I knew from my childhood piano teacher that the staff common room was THE BEST (and there is a terrific morning tea!). Staff wellbeing and morale is very important to me - I wanted to be in a school that valued the Arts and one that fostered a positive, collegial atmosphere.

 

What impact have you made in your role? Can you share some highlights and achievements with us? 

I would like to think that I have strengthened and expanded the programme. Drama is a fun subject to teach - and students love it as it involves doing, being, thinking and creating. The Year 6 boys have a double period of Drama and Dance once a week and this also includes literacy outcomes. A fabulous teacher, Jane McGarry, teaches the juniors and also writes and directs a Christmas nativity with all boys dressed up and sparkling. Drama classes at Medbury are popular and there are now a number of added opportunities. We offer an after school programme for Drama and last year we introduced a Hip Hop dance class. Theatre Sports has kicked off and last year there were three teams entered in the Junior competition. Medbury has always had large scale senior productions and I think I have upheld this tradition but the way we do the shows has changed.

 

Can you tell us a bit about these productions?

As the school roll has increased, only the Year 8 students do a major. I try to minimise disruption to the school programme so it is rehearsed in sections with each Year 8 class performing one section. An extension group devises the linking sections to tie the whole show together.  Sometimes we write the whole show, or last year, we took “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and arranged it for four classes of 23 students, then added a group who linked the four sections together . As soon as the boys finish performing their section, they become part of a ‘Greek’ chorus who sing and chant on the stands at the side of the stage. There is a fantastic staff production team at Medbury who collaborate to make this a splendid event. I am blessed to work with a teacher who is also a creative genius with costumes: Jo Keleghan.  She sources second hand clothes and materials creating an enviable wardrobe. Each show looks like a wearable art event! 

 

How would you describe your approach to teaching?

I am firm but funny. There are strict boundaries: the first lesson of the year has the boys freezing in a position of what they are NOT allowed to do in the drama studio (the ‘NORTY’ drama class!)  I foster a sense of playfulness, then dig deep into their drama characters for the truth. I love teaching and have many laughs with the boys every day. It’s like being surrounded by crazy but adorable puppies!

 

Can you give us some background on your career in education?  

Fortunately when I trained, I also completed a degree (English and Education majors) so I knew I could teach across the sectors. I started off teaching as a generalist intermediate school teacher, then spent 14 years at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School as Director of Theatre Arts. I moved into the Advisory Services (now UC Education Plus) in 2002 when the new Arts curriculum was being implemented and spent a happy eight years there before working as an administrator at ISB - a  huge international school in Bangkok. Now that my own children have left the roost, it is lovely working with younger students again.

 

How do you encourage and nurture a love of learning in your students?

I am passionate about what I teach and I think this spills over. Last year I devised a number of new units: Abel Tasman’s voyage of discovery, the life on board for Captain Cook’s Cook (based on Gavin Bishop’s new picture book), and a unit about the plight of refugees (based on the book  “Boy Overboard” by Morris Gleitzman). I am constantly learning and investigating and creating. I want students to have that experience too.

 

What do you most want to achieve in your role?

I want students to make connections with the real world through their imaginative play. I want them to feel deeply, be critical in their thinking, and feel the joy of learning.  We become more empathetic when we have stood in other people’s shoes.

 

What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent school?

Independent schools can achieve so much - they can offer rich Arts programmes, employ specialist teachers and build fantastic facilities. The young UC graduates that I sometimes help to train learn that in the state sector this is not always possible.

 

What do you see as the benefits of independent schooling for students?

Students have huge opportunities at independent schools.  The values instil a pride in the school so there is a real feeling of community. Traditions cannot be overvalued.

I love the Christ’s College motto: “Good traditions, well maintained”.