Goodbye Mrs Curtis

Mrs Deb Curtis

What can you tell us about CCGS on your first day? Take us back to 1988 when you first started.

I was very excited - yet a little nervous - on my first day but found everyone so welcoming and warm (nothing has changed there!). I was one of a combined English and History staff which had about six or seven teachers. 

Every Thursday morning before lessons, we met as whole staff to discuss policies and procedures, uniform and standards, upcoming events and excursions and students nominated for Green Cards (a weekly award for academic excellence). I was proud to be a part of a school where acknowledging personal success, as well as the values of caring and sharing, were practiced by the staff and students. 

The whole school assembly was held on a basketball court – which is now well and truly sitting beneath the new Junior School! The entire staff sat in two rows on the veranda of a heritage building, while the school executive sat on an adjacent elevated veranda, looking over the student body sitting within the boundary lines of the court. There was no roll call either. Instead, Mr Glenn would visit each class and collect a handwritten list of students absent. There were no daily notices, the library was in a demountable building where H Block now exists, and the pond was a sewer pit! 

What have been the most significant changes in the school and in teaching since you started?

The most notable and visible change has been the growth in student numbers which has led to more teachers and created more learning spaces. This growth has also meant the creation of a new House, Banksia, which has reflected the importance of maintaining a real and individualised pastoral care program, an intrinsic feature of CCGS. 

Also, in the early days the challenges of embracing technology and getting through all the syllabus requirements for my Year 12 classes was extraordinary and required me to be very agile in my thinking and practice.

What has been the highlight of your CCGS days?

My time at CCGS has largely been focused on students in their final years of secondary education. These are academically rigorous years, but when a student smiles and states enthusiastically that they’re finally ‘getting Shakespeare’ or successfully recreating the past by solving the historical mystery through sources, these moments are rewarding. Students who send me a postcard post-HSC, sharing their overseas journeys and excitement of seeing and breathing Pompeii, Egypt or Knossos are highlights - especially when they write: “I understand what I’m seeing…I can share my insights with my fellow travellers.”

Professionally, leadership opportunities over many years have allowed me to grow as an educator; from Ironbark Upper School House Coordinator (yes, that was how Years 10-12 were once referred to), to Dean of Year 12, Deputy Head of Middle School, and Dean of Senior Studies. 

House Family time has created many special memories, especially of those students who I was so fortunate to witness arrive as a nervous little Kindergarten child and then leave as a more confident, now adult, Year 12 student, embarking on the next stage of their journey out into the world. 

Participation in humanitarian tours of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam as well as Nganmarriyanga in the north-west of the Northern Territory have also been highlights. To witness our students’ growth in their sensitivity to those less fortunate, displaying a genuine capacity to care and make a difference, has been a rewarding experience.

What do you think are the most important skills students learn from school today?

There are many skills that are not necessarily prescribed in a syllabus yet are significant to life learning. Today, students learn to value curiosity and are encouraged to question and be critical thinkers. They learn to collaborate with each other and thereby value the thoughts and opinions of others. These skills make for enriched learning experiences as well as life skills in appreciating and respecting others.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned from your students?

Every student is unique and every student needs and brings something different to the classroom every day. Some will need a smile, a laugh, some gentle direction. Students unwittingly teach patience, the importance of a sense of humour, and the value of laughter. 

What advice do you have for new teachers?

Be prepared to ask for help. Don’t be afraid; we’ve all been there! Have confidence in yourself to try something out with your students and enjoy the occasional spontaneity. Be flexible and be humble; don’t expect every lesson will go to plan or that every student will behave the way you want. 

Pack your sense of humour into your bag every day!

What will you miss about CCGS?

The students and my classroom make me my happiest. This is where I feel I have been able to make a difference and enrich student learning. 

I will miss my colleagues, our shared vision and care for our young people.

What are you planning to do with your time now that you are no longer teaching?

I am looking forward to endless hours bush walking, travel, spending much more time with my family and friends, reading, and continuing with researching and writing my family history.