Goodbye Mrs Holden
After 26 years as a much loved Junior School and teacher librarian, Mrs Sonja Holden is hanging up her library books for the very last time. Sonja looks back on the many changes she has seen but the one thing that has remained the same is the strong sense of community among students, families, staff and friends of CCGS.
What can you tell us about CCGS on your first day? Take us back to 1996 when you first started.
The school was half the size back then and I remember feeling very welcomed by the staff and the parents. I was very excited to begin the next chapter in my life as a teacher at CCGS. The Junior School had two classes per grade, everyone knew each other and there was a real community school feel which is still here today. The swimming pool was still being used to teach children to swim, although you had to scare the ducks away first. Whole school assemblies were conducted under the shade cloth on the undulating asphalt of the prep yard, and each child had to bring their own chair from their roll call class, and we all hoped that it wouldn’t rain.
What have been the most significant changes in the school and in teaching since you started?
CCGS has definitely grown over the years, with more children, more classes, more teachers, and more opportunities. The grounds and buildings have also grown and for me, one of the most significant changes was the building of the Richard Lornie Centre and the Performing Arts Centre. The whole school community played a part in the fundraising for these incredible buildings, and it was a lot of fun, especially meeting some famous sports people and celebrities at ‘An Evening with the Stars’ event that was held at the Terrigal Crowne Plaza. As great as these buildings are, they would be nothing without the amazing staff who work tirelessly to bring out the best in their students, providing them the opportunity to shine whether in sports or performing on the stage.
I have seen many changes in teaching over the past 26 years. Perhaps the most significant changes have occurred over the past three years as a result of the Covid pandemic. The need for students to learn from home and teachers to adapt their programs and then deliver lessons remotely. What hasn’t changed is the dedication and commitment of the teaching and support staff to ensure students receive a quality education and every opportunity to learn.
What has been the highlight of your CCGS days?
One of the benefits of teaching in a K to 12 school is that you are able to observe and actively participate in a child's learning journey for an extended amount of time. For some students, I had the privilege to teach them fundamental skills in Junior School, such as timetables and reading, and then helping them research their major works in senior school and proofread their personal interest projects. I am still in contact with quite a few past students and their families today after teaching them more than 20 years ago. I have made lifelong friends with these families and members of staff, and I know these friendships will continue in the future.
A major highlight for me was the 1999 World Sports Tour: five countries, Singapore, England, Wales, Ireland and Zimbabwe, three weeks and 70 teenagers. We visited some amazing places and met some remarkable people along the way. Losing my passport in Harare airport was not a highlight but the 70 students doing an 'Emu Bob' to try and find it definitely was. Similarly, being woken in the middle of the night by a group of elephants as they walked through our campsite was a little unnerving but in hindsight was an amazing and memorable experience for us all.
What do you think are the most important skills students learn from school today?
We often think of school as being an academic experience, but I truly believe that school plays a vital role in developing skills that will help students each and every day for the rest of their lives. We are all different and we need to get along with others, recognising, acknowledging and appreciating these differences is of paramount importance, as are showing empathy and respect for others. These skills are often harder to learn but without them, we are unable to reach our full potential.
What advice do you have for new teachers?
Get to know the students in your class, and how they learn and try to understand what makes them tick. Each child is different and will have a different learning style. Be prepared, and be organised, but be willing and ready to adapt as needed and don’t be frightened to try something new. Remember that you are important too and while it is easy to be consumed by the job, you must try to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
What will you miss about CCGS?
I will miss the students. I became a teacher to help students, and this has always been the reason behind everything I do, both in the classroom and in the library.
What are you planning to do with your time now that you are no longer teaching?
I am looking forward to spending more time with my family and friends, traveling and reading.