The shrill sounds of four-year-olds dancing and singing songs at the top of their lungs may not be everybody’s ‘cup of tea’, but for new Kindergarten teacher Mrs Rebecca McCready the gospel tunes are exactly her way of showing what God’s love can look like for children of a young and tender age:
“We can show love and care and a sense of quick forgiveness,” says Mrs McCready in a wonderful Northern Irish accent.
“It’s great to be able to model great behaviour at such a young age, whether our students are from church-going families or not.”
Rebecca is one of the latest additions to the Southern Hills staff in Bedfordale, but her journey to the Early Learning Centre was anything but direct. She has witnessed a side of life that many of us will never deal with, and her pure optimism for life is absolutely contagious:
“I grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the 1980s. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was active and I can remember playing in an orchestra while in secondary school and having to present my violin case for inspection to ensure that I was not carrying any incendiary devices into the concert!’
Rebecca’s husband, Steven, is the newly-appointed Senior Minister of Riverview Church and his background in church leadership has ensured that Rebecca’s life has been anything but boring.
“We grew up together in Protestant families in Belfast. Steve’s father worked in the Prison Services, so their family had bullet-proof glass in their house and regularly checked their cars for bombs.”
Thankfully the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ was signed in 1998, and a sense of unity amongst the people of Northern Ireland prevailed from that time on. The change was so dramatic, in fact, that Rebecca completed her teacher training and began teaching young people in schools about the history of segregation and received quizzical looks from her students.
“There was a sense that living in this ‘Catholic versus Protestant’ conflict was foreign and no longer commonplace to this new generation.”
A ‘short sabbatical’ from Northern Ireland to Calgary, Canada turned into a full decade away from home as Steve’s preaching and teaching took them on to Ontario in weather conditions that could reach as low as twenty degrees below zero each year!
“It became quite problematic to connect during the pandemic, especially with the natural isolation of the rural countryside.”
After two years of ‘COVID living’, a call from Perth, Western Australia brought Steven to Riverview and Rebecca to Southern Hills where the multicultural aspects of her class have College Principal Mr Paul Beacham calling the Kindergarten class ‘The United Nations of Southern Hills’.
“There are children here from all walks of life, and it is a joy to see these students interacting and celebrating different cultures.’
The segregation that Rebecca and her husband experienced as youngsters has all but disappeared in Northern Ireland and her classroom now honours the many cultures that the world has brought to Bedfordale and the surrounding suburbs. These young Kindergarten students have every reason to carry their teacher’s optimism into the future!