A Q & A with our Year 9 Dean, Languages Teacher, Water Polo Team Manager and Admissions Support Member, Christine Lewis.
From student to teacher, Christine Lewis has spent much of her life at Diocesan School. She was a student there from 1970-76 before taking up a teaching role in 1984. Her three daughters also went to the school and one of them has now joined her mum there as a teacher. Christine is a true multi-tasker and, aside from teaching, is also the Year 9 Dean, manager of Dio’s Premier Water Polo team and helps out with Admissions support.
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I had some amazing teachers when I was at school. I went to Diocesan and my French teacher, in particular, was a real gem who instilled in me a real love of the language. She was way ahead of her time and had the amazing ability to make us feel we were actually in France and bring the language to life. I wanted more than anything to make others as passionate about the subject as I was.
Can you give us some background on your teaching career?
I did my degree in both French and Spanish (with some maths as well) and then trained as a Primary school teacher. I started teaching at Intermediate level, then got a job at Diocesan teaching in the Junior School, then after a couple of years, the Senior School. Initially I taught French, English and Maths, then, over the years, French, Maths and Spanish, and latterly to French only. This is because I’ve been a Dean for the past 11 years and have been helping in Admissions as well. I truly love the variety that each day brings me with these three different hats.
I’ve always loved sport and had such inspiring coaches at school, so I wanted to give something back to Diocesan sports when I returned as a teacher. I coached the premier netball team for several years, and when my three daughters started at Diocesan, I coached their netball teams in Years 7-10 until they got to Premier level. I’ve managed the Premier water polo team and other junior teams for the past 20 years. In that time Diocesan has won each of its five National Schoolgirl titles – very proud moments!
What enlightening moments did you experience that set you on your way to a career in education?
The times when a student says to me despondently, “I can’t do this” or “I’m no good at that” or “I don’t like that” but later has a lightbulb moment and says, “Wow, I get it! I can do it, I am good at it and I love it!” These are the words every teacher loves to hear. The times when a parent comes to you and says with heart-felt emotion that you’ve made a difference to their child’s learning and when former students take the time to come back and visit to share what they’re doing with their lives. These special times mean a lot to me and reinforce that I’m in teaching for the right reasons.
Who were the inspirational people that helped you?
I work, and have worked with, some amazing and inspiring colleagues. Teaching is so much more than just being in a classroom and my colleagues take the responsibilities of preparing students for the future incredibly seriously, working tirelessly and giving so many hours to their profession. I learn from both students and staff, and I’ve grown so much as a person and a teacher because of their influence.
What led you to the role you’re in now? Can you describe what being a Dean is about?
I’d been a tutor teacher initially and enjoyed the pastoral care side of the job. In 2008 I became Year 8 Dean. It’s incredibly rewarding to see students enter the Junior High School as nervous young 10 year olds and then leave school as strong, confident, powerful young women. The memories I have of “my girls” - not just those I’ve taught but also those for whom I’ve been Dean - are incredibly special. My role is to build relationships with each student in my year level and get to know them as individuals. We become a whanau and we’re there to support each other, to help each other through the hard times and to celebrate each other’s successes.
How would you describe your teaching style? What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I’m passionate about what I do in and out of the classroom and I want that passion and love of life to rub off on my students. I want them to be able to look back on their school years and be filled with happy memories. I’d like to think that I give students such a love of the subject that they become curious and want to discover more. I love being able to open up doors to the world by teaching a foreign language and for students to understand the importance of being able to relate to and communicate with others in different languages.
What attracted you to Diocesan School?
The Dio pride is incredibly strong in our school community. Our Chapel is the heart of the school, everything else radiates from it and our special character is central to how we live our daily lives. Our tradition is very important to us and we’re forever grateful to those who paved the way for the students of today and the future. As much as tradition is important, so too is the pride we take in leading the way in future thinking. We expose students to both problem posing and solving: we want them to be able to transfer their skills to a variety of situations in order to make a difference as global citizens in a world that is forever changing. We encourage them to have a voice, to develop open-mindedness and to have the ability to view life through the eyes of others and to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
What are your thoughts on the benefits of independent schooling?
As an Independent School, Diocesan provides the most up-to-date facilities, resources and a myriad of opportunities. As well as providing a wide range of subject options and specialised teachers who are passionate about their subjects, we also emphasise a series of programmes about developing character attributes including ethics, leadership, future thinking and spiritual development. We want our girls to be the best version of themselves, to make their dreams a reality and to be more than they ever imagined.