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Deputy Principal Retires After 43 Years
There are very few teachers who can say that they have spent their entire teaching career at one school. That is nearly true for Chris, if not for one term’s teaching at St Mary’s in 1972 and a term at Avonside in 1975 after returning from a year’s overseas travel.
Teaching Science was very different experience then. In 1972, Chris taught six classes: four junior classes, one Year 11 and one Year 12 class. During the teaching week, she moved between several rooms as well. These were the days when Science was housed in what is now the Hagley Adult Literacy Centre and X Block. Chris taught one of her classes in the main block with no access to science equipment. Chris recalls how the senior classes were really large with 35 or more students. There were 36 periods a week with eight on a Monday, all punctuated by bells.
Chris couldn’t look beyond each day in 1972. She stayed up to midnight each night preparing for her next day’s teaching. In Chris’s words, “she didn’t know how she would survive.” The fact is that she has more than survived. Chris has flourished and 43 years later she leaves her senior leadership role after a most successul career.
The culture of the school was very much that of a conventional coeducational school in the early 1970s. There was a clear expectation of a staff dress code, which Chris only realised when she was told off for wearing her lab coat to assembly. Hagley High School, as it was known, was a uniform based school of adolescents: “teal jackets everywhere”, Chris recalls.
When adults first arrived, Chris observed a notable change. She remembers our first adult to join the day programme: Paddy Grant, who came in 1974. Things moved quickly, from one adult student in 1974 to over 150 in 1976. Chris describes the impact aduilts had on adolescent students. “They [adolescents] realised that they had to compete – it raised the level.” Adults had a roll in student behaviour management too. When adolescents were off task, adults would say to them, “I sacrificed a lot to be here, so get onto your work now!”
The threat of closure was almost constant for Hagley over this time. The development of Hagley’s shift from conventional high school was at times planned and at other times almost circumstantial. Hagley becoming all mufti for a quite pragmatic reason. With roll numbers declining in the early 1980s, uniform manufacturers were refusing to make more uniforms as demand was dropping. Chris thinks that the first name basis for all students and staff was started, possibly because of the adults in class.
Other aspects of Hagley’s evolution were planned, like programme development. The school was always looking to develop new courses that were not available elsewhere and Chris has had a significant involvement here. She started our Horticulture programme, albeit in an unorthodox way. She managed to get the glasshouse for free. Her first class Year 11 class had 48 students. The sole piece of equipment with one spade. With Head of Science Paul Buist, Chris introduced our Pre-Health programme 25 years ago after talking to Christchurch Polytechnic [now CPIT] about how Hagley could help adult students wanting to prepare for their nursing course.
Chris has been in charge of timetabling at Hagley for 35 years up to the present day, in fact she is still using the same timetabling board she inherited from the timetablers from the late 1970s. Her promotion into the timetabling team happened quickly. After sneaking past the “Go away -or else” sign on the door of the timetabling office to check her timetable for the following year, the timetabler was impressed that Chris could read the timetabling board and she was appointed on the spot. A year later after the timetabler left, she became the main College timetabler as a relatively new teacher.
During the 1980s, Chris became Head of Social Education, a forerunner of the Health Education, then Head of Biology. In the mid 1990s she was appointed as Assistant Principal then to Deputy Principal, with responsibility for curriculum coordination and pre-NCEA assessment.
Chris says that Hagley is a hard place to leave. She finds the job all consuming, but loves it – it’s never boring working at Hagley. But in her own delightfully off the cuff assessment of why now is the right time to retire, she says, “I’ve got to go! I always like the holidays and I never want to come back, so that’s a good sign!”
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