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Old Girls Share Wisdom with Future Generations of St Mary's Girls

Did you know that more than 15 members of St Mary’s teaching staff are former students of the School?

We sat down with three Old Girls – Geraldine Drabble (Sims, ’84), Natalie Sumner (’99) and Natasha Denham (’11) - during our Centenary Week to discuss their journey from student to educator and why they chose to teach at St Mary’s.

Geraldine Drabble (Deputy Head of Junior School) might have only attended St Mary’s in Years 11 and 12, but the dedication of the School’s teaching staff left a lasting impression on her and ultimately inspired her to return in a professional capacity 26 years later.

Like many boarding students of her time, Geraldine, who hailed from the small country town of Beverley, took some time to adjust to life away from the farm. Although she was not overly fond of the rules and routines that came with living in Anne Symington House, Geraldine thrived in the classroom thanks to the support of many wonderful teachers.

“The teachers were excellent at supporting the boarding students. They went to extraordinary lengths to improve our learning and lift our results. That has always stayed with me, so years later when an opportunity to return as a teacher arose, I knew what the School was like and that it had exceptionally high standards,” Geraldine said.

“I absolutely love being a teacher here. I think being a teacher here is the closest thing that you can get to being part of a tightly knit country community. The campus itself is almost like a country town within the boundaries of the school. Because I came here, my daughters also came here and now I work here. There are so many levels of connection and community at St Mary’s for me.”

Natalie Sumner (Sports Co-ordinator) has been wearing maroon for almost 27 years – and she wouldn’t have it any other way. After spending 12 years as a student at St Mary’s from 1988 to 1999, Natalie seized an opportunity continue her association with the School, when she was offered a job in the physical education department in 2006.

“I made my mind up in Year 10 that I wanted to be a sports teacher and that was probably influenced by the phys ed teachers at the time - Helen Garnett, Helen Timms and Katie Cox. I just wanted to be them,” Natalie said.

“You could tell that they just loved their job. They were always so positive and made sport so fun. I just thought, ‘that’s what I want to do after school’.”

While both Geraldine and Natalie jumped at opportunities to return to St Mary’s, Natasha Denham (Year 6 teacher) is not shy to admit that she was hoping for an opening at St Mary’s every time she refreshed her SEEK search field. Fortunately for the 2011 graduate, her dream of teaching at her beloved school became a reality earlier this year.

Natasha said that her desire to become a teacher and work at St Mary’s stemmed from her wonderful experiences as a student at the School and specifically, her interactions with its dedicated staff.

“I had so many fabulous teachers during my three years at St Mary’s,” Natasha said.

“I had such admiration for them, especially the likes of Linda Richards, who was my English Literature teacher. I used to write an extra essay every single week because I was really determined to get a great mark.

“Every single week I’d give her an extra essay and every single week she’d come back with a full written response to my original and additional essay. Now that I am a teacher I think, ‘What on earth was I doing to this poor woman?’ But she never complained and was always so willing to put in the extra yards to help me.”