It was a pleasure to chat with the delightful Mark and Danielle Grisham about all things books, SCEA and family. Read what they see as the most burning issue in their roles…
How did you come to join SCEA?
Danielle: We were living in the country when our pastor and friend, Ray Hockley, mentioned there was a role in Admin available at Swan Christian College back in 2001. I was successful in my application and then went on to have various roles whilst raising our three children and doing a double major degree in Literature and Religion, followed by a Diploma of Education. I started my teaching role in English and Psychology at Ellenbrook Christian College in 2015.
Mark: I joined Swan as the Teacher Librarian in 2008. I already had my degree in education and a strong background in books from managing a book superstore back in America, so I am grateful that the College took a leap of faith with me whilst I completed my degree in Information Science.
Tell us about your kids?
Danielle: Our eldest son, Moss, is in Year 9 at Swan. We also have Alice in Year 6 and Lewis in Year 4 at Beechboro Christian School. It is fair to say that our kids are a little eccentric and left of centre, and the thing I love so much about Beechboro is that they understand our kids. They are well loved and accepted.
Mark: And they have been taught by incredible staff such as Murray Thomas and Geoff Dunjey! The amazing people at SCEA is one of the first things I noticed. And so many of them are qualified pastors too. That makes our schools truly unique.
What do you like to do as a family?
Mark: We love to read!
Danielle: Well, we love to read and our kids like to be read to!
Mark: I grew up in a blue-collar family in Arkansas and my dad had a giant 1976 encyclopedia set that I used to read cover to cover. I remember the first time I saw a library. I was in Year 3 and to see a whole wall full of books just blew my mind. When we were offered the chance to choose any book we wanted, it was like someone offered me a bright new shiny car, saying ‘it’s yours’! No surprise that I was also the Year 12 president of the Library Club.
Danielle: Mark is also the author of a series of independently published science fiction novels and is distantly related to John Grisham!
What do you see as the most burning issue in your roles?
Mark and Danielle: Students’ literacy!
Danielle: As a society, we just don’t place enough value on reading and libraries. Research shows that the wider the canon of literature a child reads, the better their academic results. Similarly, the more a school uses a library, the better the school’s results. We just don’t appreciate all the skills that reading gives us.
Mark: Kids just love to be read to, even the Year 12s enjoy it.
Danielle: That’s because reading switches on the same parts of the brain as relaxation; it soothes and calms us. Unlike technology which spikes the adrenal glands making the kids permanently fired up.
What do you love about working at SCEA?
Danielle: Mark would say he loves it because he has a captive audience of 30 kids!
Mark: I love the opportunity to promote literacy in creative ways and always consider that when we are standing in front of a class, we could be talking to the finest minds of their generation.
Danielle: For me, being able to go to school and be the grace of Jesus and try to treat even the odd and difficult students with that same love that Jesus showed, that is what it is all about. For many of these students, we are their only exposure to Christianity so it is so important to represent Him positively.
Mark: I like to weave our biblical world view into library initiatives such as an Easter display which is more about Jesus and less about the Easter bunny. Similarly, I have a ‘Read the Bible in a Year’ display that runs along the ‘Read a classic in a Year’ plan.
Danielle: Inspired by a wonderful article (https://sarahcinnamon.com/2017/03/21/an-unlikely-view-a-different-review/) we recently discussed the symbolism of The Beauty and the Beast with my Year 8’s, where the Beast depicts us in our sinful ways from which we are restored by Christ’s love and Gaston is like Satan who makes himself look beautiful, without there being any goodness in him. You could never have those kinds of conversations at a secular school!