It's not every day that you find three sisters who all pursue teaching in Christian education – and then find them all in SCEA schools achieving great things in their own classrooms.
For sisters Hollie, Natalie and Melinda their journeys have been completely different – yet they are all together now in SCEA serving in different capacities and different schools.
Hollie (Johnson) is the youngest of the three sisters and is currently the Head of Early Years at Swan Junior School. Watching her teach and conduct interviews with current and prospective parents so confidently in matters of pedagogy and development, one might be fooled into thinking that Hollie has always been at the top of her class, scooping awards and winning at all levels.
“Actually, I didn’t even complete my ATAR! I took a path through TAFE doing what is now called a Diploma of Early Childhood Education, then went onto University, then did my first practicum at Swan Junior School way back in 2003. I then went onto Kalamunda Christian, had a baby, then Ellenbrook Christian College and now back where I started at Swan Junior.”
Middle child Melinda (Edwards) is now famous for her Hospitality program at Mundaring’s Parkerville Campus, but like her little sister, the path was not quite as straight as you might imagine:
“I started out at a tiny Christian school in Fremantle as Junior Primary teacher, then went to Lake Joondalup to run their Art Department as one of their foundational staff under Barbara Wadley. When the position of Food Technology teacher came up at Mundaring under Terry Myers, I convinced him to give me the job by cooking some chocolate eclairs! I then won the job and completed my chef training over three years of night school at TAFE while working at Mundaring. Now I’ve been blessed with a new campus, a wonderful commercial kitchen and our MCC trainees are gaining employment in hospitality and running the school café. Its been an awesome ride but it totally suits me because I love to pioneer new things!”
Melinda also keeps busy by winning First Place prizes at the Gidgegannup show for her famous Dutch Gingerbread Slice!
The oldest sister Natalie (Miller) is the quietest of the three girls, and she is happy to play the peacemaker when her siblings start to raise their voices. She currently works at Swan Junior in the Early Years after a stint in Port Hedland where she met her husband. Technically, her current boss is her little sister Hollie, but Natalie has no problem deferring to the youngest sibling in her role as the elder statesman of the family:
“When we were younger, our family made the decision to foster a severely disabled child. I think that taught all of us a great deal of patience, but also gave us the opportunity to see how rewarding it is to see people grow and to look at the notion of development through a different perspective. It also taught all of us a level of compassion that we hadn’t felt before. All of us were on the Creche (Kids Church) roster at our church from a young age, and so the concept of teaching in a Christian environment was in our minds from a young age.”
All of the sisters are in a position now to give advice to any young people consider a career in teaching, and they all have a different take of what makes a good teacher from their own journeys:
Hollie: “For me, a new teacher has to have passion, but it can also be a bit of a shock when you first start out. I was lucky to have Mike Pitman as my first Principal when I started. He was a true father figure and I think every teacher needs that in their first few years to really help guide them through those early challenges.”
Melinda: “Relationships are the key to learning. Whatever subject you’re teaching at any level – you need to connect before you can learn from anyone.”
Natalie: “Truly caring for people is the start of the journey for me. To want to see people succeed is the beginning of teaching for me.”
Where to from here?
After decades in teaching, the girls have different dreams for their lives after decades in the classroom:
Hollie: “My first Kindy Class is now in Year 11 at Swan. I want to be there when they graduate next year to be able to see the journey through. That’s the culmination of a long journey.”
Melinda: “I have always wanted to teach and live in a rural setting. Mundaring Christian College is my “wink” from God that provides me with a beautiful country setting, with an expansive kitchen.
My husband was called to be a pastor of a church the month after we were married, so I’ve always been urban as a result.
After I retire, my hope is to run my own café in Tasmania in the green hills and own my own hobby farm.”
Natalie: “I hope to find some peace and quiet away from these two! Only joking! My hope is that when I get the opportunity, I can work with those less fortunate in the area of social tutoring and life education. I think that is how I can extend this training to a new level and really continue to make a difference.”
I am sure that any student within our schools would be grateful for a teacher like Hollie, Melinda or Natalie.