This week we catch up with Mr Rod McNeill, who has spent more than two decades with SCEA after a successful stint as an overseas missionary in Russia. As he concludes his time at Mundaring Christian College (MCC), he reflects on his time at SCC and MCC.
The early years…
I completed my Graduate Diploma of Education from Edith Cowan University in 1999 at the age of 40 after six years of pioneering a church in Moscow.
We were all exhausted, and I needed to step out of ministry.
After church one day, a friend said that two jobs were available at Swan Christian College (SCC).
One was a Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) teacher – what I was trained for. One was for a Maths teacher (this was my minor area, having studied the lowest level of mathematics ever and being a cheeky kid in maths classes. I had completed a statistics unit at university in 1978, however).
The HASS job was for a head of department (wow!), and I declined the Mathematics position, thinking I really didn’t know Mathematics (I had received a High Distinction for teaching it at ECU, just bragging!) I walked out and thought, “What an idiot! (me), I just declined a job, am not employed, broke, and have a wife and three kids to feed.”
Anyway, the other applicant for the Mathematics position fell through, and I was offered the position about five weeks into the first term.
Lesson: God has a sense of humour and will repay you for being a cheeky kid in maths classes. I taught mainly maths for ten years.
From Swan Christian College to Mundaring Christian College…
Dr Martin Bent (who was the Chief Operations Officer at SCEA) asked me in 2011 to undertake a term’s work at Mundaring Christian College (MCC) while the Principal was on Long Service Leave (LSL).
My reply was, “No, Martin. I’ve done enough with my life and want to make it simpler – not more complex.”
I may have said something about the role of Principal as being a “mug’s game”, – which seems accountable to too many people in too many ways.
Lesson: Reluctance doesn’t disqualify you in God’s kingdom, which is kind of annoying.
From a single K-10 campus on Walker Street to a second campus in Parkerville for Years 7-12….
We faced a lot of difficulties.
Even when we were getting started, there was local opposition and some feisty Shire meetings. Building is always more costly, demanding, and problematic than you ever imagined it to be.
The staff at MCC have been amazing from the word ‘go’, and they continue to be even today. Their sacrifices and adjustments constantly humble me, and they have continued to inspire me.
It’s the staff that set this school apart.
You develop a deep fondness for students who travel the journey with you and grow up in your care. I have lasting memories of parents who trusted us with their children when MCC was a hope and a story that they were willing to believe in.
I have deep bonds that will continue with many of the parents and students I’ve worked with.
Our first graduating class in 2017 was 26 students. Some after that were even smaller.
I joke with parents that ‘now the secondary school is pretty much full, and the primary is rapidly growing, I am not required to be as nice to them as I was before.’
Lesson: People of faith are remarkable when they share a common vision. People without faith are wanting to believe.
Fondest memories after more than twenty years with SCEA…
Yes, it’s the people you love.
I’ve led from the heart because my other qualifications are fairly slim. I still remain in contact with some students who graduated 20 years ago.
It’s the good stories of lives changed and people who’ve come to faith. There are the good times with parents and their support of the school.
There are staff I’ve worked alongside who are honestly inspiring. I like meeting people years later who have appreciated the years together.
Lesson: Working with people is a tough business but worth it. People are God’s most precious possession, even if they can be difficult (you know what I mean, right?)
What is your advice for young Christian staff who are just beginning their careers in a Christian school?
You hear a lot of negative information about teaching and education in the media.
Don’t believe it.
I have seen every minute of being involved in Christian schooling as an integral part of my calling to ministry. Schools are hard work at a quick pace, but they are also funny places and deeply rewarding. If you’re considering teaching at a school, find one with a good culture and staff who support one another. God can use you.
Lesson: Vision and culture are everything. People are worth it. Good Principals are important because bad ones can really jerk you around (apologies if I’ve done that to you!)
Finally, I want to say that the current team of Principals and the Senior Support Team are such a great group of quality people that I will miss.
I am really glad that Mr Doug Holtam will be joining them.
You are all in safe hands.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
Psalm 127: 1