Home' Greymouth Star : January 19th 2019 Contents Saturdayy Afternoon
Saturday, January 19, 2019 - 7
6 - Saturday, January 19, 2019
Intermediate and Greymouth High School. Sometimes working at two
schools, on the same day.
Sister Anne Fennell was principal at John Paul II and offered me
part-time work teaching remedial reading and social studies. Over the next
10 years I went on to teach English, maths, science, typing, economics,
health, sexuality education, home economics and religious education.
In the early years, we were young teachers who were very social. Many a
happy hour was spent at the Wildings’ and the Brothers’ Houses. Brother
Brian Sklenars and his fellow monks, Peter Henderson, Joe McCarthy,
Bosco Camden and Paddy Hill, made us feel very much at home.
Brother Gerald Murphy, originally from Greymouth and who taught me
French at school, decided to return to Greymouth to spend his retirement.
He must have been in his early 80s by this stage.
Brother couldn’t cope with such a rowdy household and returned to
Auckland, for a quiet life.
Harold Leask opened his home to staff ‘get-togethers’, and later John
Fletcher and Paul and Janice Cousins.
When I first started as a teacher here, I taught my neighbourhood
young friends, nieces, nephews and cousins. Now I have taught the next
generation of friends’ children and grandchildren, great-nieces and great-
nephews. An ongoing question has been, “what was my mum/dad like at
school...?” “Am I as bad/better than them?” I have seen the young people
from John Paul go on to amazing careers and become solid citizens of our
town, country and world. It has made for a full and family-filled career.
Teaching so many subjects has meant ongoing professional development.
When I left Teachers’ College, I was qualified to teach from Year 7-13
home economics with junior maths as a second major. About six years
later, the government decided that we, home economics and technology
teachers, were not qualified enough and introduced a qualification that
was called G3+. This was supposedly equivalent to a degree, but not
a degree. I duly spent several years completing the papers, to gain this
qualification, in time for the government to say that it was not necessary
to have a higher qualification to teach.
However, in the early 2000s a pay settlement left our G3+ group
out, so the government then had to introduce a New Zealand Diploma
in Specialist Subjects Secondary Teacher Level 7, which I then had 12
months to complete. At the same time as completing this diploma, I
began work on my diploma in religious studies, which I completed in
Early in my career, I taught typing supported by an amazing head
of department, Joy Wilding. Brother Brian decided we would get rid
of typewriters for computers. Shock! Horror! I didn’t know how to
use computers! “No worries, Janet! The computers will arrive in early
December and you can learn how to use them over the holidays.” Famous
The monitors and towers arrived ... but no keyboards. So, I learned on
the run. One of my students was exceedingly talented with computers, so
he would figure how to do something, teach me and I would teach the rest
of the class. This was facilitated learning, the newest buzzword.
From then on, I was never afraid to show students that I did not know
something, that we could learn about it together and become experts
together. This has been my style since.
I became director of religious studies in 1993. This was a reasonably
new position, especially for lay people. Previously in Catholic schools,
the religious were in charge and no lay person even taught religious
education. There was very little information in the school to guide
me. Peter Tolich, director of religious studies from Catholic Cathedral
College, in Christchurch, came and spent three days with me, helping me
to establish a plan and organise the department, so that it worked within
the new concept for integrated schools.
Over the years, my South Island colleagues have helped with resources
and professional learning. In turn, I have shared resources and prayer
liturgies with them.
Brother Denis Turner provided many years of Marist support, followed
by Alan Parker and Dan Dungey, the directors of Champagnat Marist
Partnership. The last of the Marist Brothers to live in Greymouth, Brothers
Jordan, Humphrey and Joachim, all helped reinforce the continued
support of the Marist Brothers to the special character in our school.
These days, Brothers Osmond and Alan provide support from their
home base in Christchurch. Through my contact with all these Marist men,
I was invited to attend many courses, district assemblies and Provincial
Chapters, which helped develop me as a Champagnat Marist teacher.
My Mercy roots, from being a student at St Patrick’s and St Marys, were
strengthened by the Mercy Sisters. Sisters Rosaline, Monica, Peg, Anne
Theresa and Mary Ellen provided ongoing Mercy input and resources.
Their Mercy presence in our community is a blessing and continues to
enhance the Mercy nature of our school.
Two men have strongly influenced my teaching. Harold Leask and
Alan Parker. Harold taught at Marist/St Mary’s in my Seventh Form year,
going on to Teachers College in 1979. I met up with him on several
occasions during that college year, but our friendship really began when I
started teaching at John Paul II.
Harold set a high benchmark for teaching. He was an amazing teacher;
his workshop and graphics students will long remember his lessons.
He was exceedingly neat and tidy about everything he did. I would be
preparing handouts, using the meths-based Banda, cursing the machine,
covering myself with blue ink, the paper would go through either wrinkled
or crooked. Along would come Harold, he would tweak the machine,
smoothly rotate the handle, and produce 20 perfect copies. Every time!
When he became deputy principal and then on to principal, Harold
had high expectations for staff and students. His vision for the school
saw our roll grow from its lowest point of 112, to 199 in his final year. It
was devastating when he was diagnosed with cancer and died 18 months
Many wonderful chaplains have contributed to the special character
of our school. These priests supported and expanded the idea of special
character. Father Kevin Burns would always find a way to provide liturgies
that students could understand and relate with their lives.
Two of our chaplains went on to become bishops -- Barry Jones and
Steve Lowe. Monsignor Gerry came to
Greymouth to retire, but he put 100% effort into working with our
students, supporting them in very sad times, but also enjoying the weekly
Masses and preparation for sacramental reception.
The students loved a Mons’ Mass as his sermons were short, to the
point and always made an impact. The fact that most of his class Masses
took 25 minutes, also made him popular.
It was a delight to have him bless the sculpture commissioned for 150
years of Catholic education in Greymouth.
As a sewing (aka fabric technology) teacher, I enjoyed the different
challenges that students presented in the projects they chose. Everything
from gun bags to ball dresses were produced over the years. Initially, I had
parents lending me their machines so that we had enough for students
to use. We went on to having 14 machines, three overlockers and an
embroidery machine. I watched students who were frightened to use the
machines become confident and capable. I also had a couple of students
who broke up to 30 sewing needles in one semester!
There were probably only two serious injuries on the machines where
inattention saw students stitch themselves.
The same could be said for the food tech, although a bit of food was
blackened, only a couple of students ever burned themselves so badly
that they required sick bay attention. However, there was the time we
made peanut brittle and one of the students was rushed to hospital with
an allergic reaction.
One of the real highlights, in the last 10 years, was the arrival of Blaze,
the school cat. He arrived and made himself at home. Vanessa Pringle
persuaded Harold Leask that Blaze would have a beneficial effect on staff
and students, so Blaze was here to stay. He chose the best places to
sleep, often in Harold’s office, Lorraine McCarthy’s or my office. He
was even partial to the top of the office photocopier. Many a day I have
seen students carting him off to class because they need a hug. He has
been the best grief counsellor any school could provide. When I shifted
offices, Blaze made it his own as well having his own chair and supply of
Temptations at hand.
I have seen a number of large building projects. The initial strengthening
of St Mary’s Block and renovation of the technology suite in the Marist
Block. Both Harold and I spent time in the old St Patrick’s building,
cobbling together a makeshift classroom for tech and foods. We moved
the main items from the upstairs St Mary’s classroom, my brand new
fridge ended up being dropped halfway down the stairwell. It went on
working until 2017, when it finally died.
MM1 was an exciting new addition to the school. Only by the hard
work of Marj Kiely and Peter Fava did we get this building. Then there
was the change of the hall to a gym -- and now it’s back to being a hall
The demolition of the old St Patrick’s Block and Dean Carew buildings
saw the new St Patrick’s classrooms built on Puketahi Street. Bishop
Barry ensured our staying on the Alexander Street site and backed the
building of a combined library and staffroom. Our administration block
has been renovated twice. The first time the senior management and
administration staff shared the old St Mary’s library. It was like being in a
Of course, the latest demolition project, the removal of the two-
storey St Mary’s Block saw me spending time in a St Patrick’s classroom
teaching foods and fabric. This was even more of a challenge than the
original move I had to the old St Patrick’s Block. I had one mini oven,
two microwaves and two hot plates, but only two power outlets! I am still
impressed with how my students coped and Year 11 and 12 achieved
NCEA practical assessments.
Watching the crane lift the new J Block rooms into place was a dream
come true. I had the most amazing Foods Room set up and an office that
If there was one thing I would like to change in all this time at John
Paul II, it would be the number of students we have had to farewell and
for whom we have had to plant roses in our memorial garden. The last
eight years especially, have been very hard, with the deaths of seven
of our ex-students, as well as Harold Leask, Mons Gerry and Bishop
Barry. Our students have lost parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles
and best friends. I have had to design so many sympathy cards, liturgies
and Masses, that there are more of these in my files than anything else.
For a teacher, the loss of someone you have invested time, effort and
the occasional telling off, is so very hard, but as a member of such a small
community, the grief is ongoing. My biggest prayer and wish for our
school community is that it is many long years before another rose has
to be planted.
Harold used to accuse me of empire building, in that I was home
economics, fabric tech, food tech, health, sexuality and religious education
I was presented with a certificate of honour from the Catholic Education
Office at the 2018 end of year Mass and awards ceremony. It recognised
my 25 years as director of religious education and was signed by Bishop
As I have spent this past year going through and throwing away
numerous files, I have come across many notes from Harold, ‘thank you’
notes from parents, amazing essays and letters from students who have
seen the efforts every member of staff has put into their holistic education.
I have kept a few as they are far too precious to throw out.
It has been a real privilege being involved in young people’s lives, many
of whom I have taught from Year 7 to Year 13.
To the eight principals, who let me develop my style of special character,
I hope I have continued your vision for our school. To those who continue
to build our special character, enjoy the ride, take the opportunities
offered, stand on your “digs” when someone threatens to water down the
John Paul way, and do not lose sight of “Jesus is the reason this school
exists” expressed in our Marist and Mercy ways. Goodbye, God bless and
thank you John Paul II.
Farewell to John Paul II
Teacher JANET WEBSTER retired from John Paul II High School at the
end of 2018 after 37 years at theWest Coast’s only Catholic high school.
She has spent most of her life at the school, having also received her
own education on site at St Patrick’s and St Mary’s High School. Here
in her own words she recalls her long teaching career, the arrival
of computers, changes to the school campus, and the students and
staff who made it all worthwhile.
The photos of students
and staff were part
of the school’s All
Souls Liturgy last year.
Each year the school
and staff who have been
part of the school, in a
special liturgy and Mass.
J Block (John Paul Block) replaced the St Mary’s two-storey building in 2014. In October 2013,
staff were given a week to vacate the St Mary’s Block and find new classrooms because the block
failed to meet minimum earthquake requirements. “I loved my new classroom, it was bright and
very warm, as well as great to teach in,” Janet Webster says.
The view of the Marist Block was taken to show the new grassed area where St Mary’s Block used to stand.
In 2011, Harold Leak came up with the idea of a new motto that incorporated both founding orders of
John Paul II High School -- the Sisters of Mercy and the Marist Brothers. He had it mounted along the St
Mary’s two-storey block. It is now in storage until a new home can be found for it.
Greymouth’s current Sisters of Mercy -- Sr Mary Ellen, Sr
Theresa and Sr Anne -- joined the school to celebrate Mercy
Day. Mass was said by Father Peter Costello, who took the
opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Sisters for all the
Mercy order has done for Catholic schooling in Greymouth.
Blaze generally chooses the most comfortable seat in Janet
Harold Leask and Janet Webster were presented with religious
education level two accreditation certificates in 2012 by Bishop
The two storey St Mary’s block, formerly St Mary’s High
School, was where Janet Webster spent most of her time
teaching. The home economics room, the general classroom and
the computer room were all on the top floor.
Links Archive January 18th 2019 January 21st 2019 Navigation Previous Page Next Page