Class of 1987 – Jacqui Lyons
Jacqui Lyons started at St Paul’s in Year 7 in the foundation year of 1982, with only twenty-four students in the Sunday School rooms at the back of the church.
Today Jacqui is a music teacher at St Paul’s and she remembers the early days of St Paul’s when the school was just starting, using the Sunday School’s furniture, making their own lockers and bringing their own sports equipment. She even remembers that they had to make their own weaving loom before they could weave! When we asked her what stood out the most during those times she said it was the sense of community and family.
“The thing that stands out the most from when we were there was that it was all about the community, it was not about the resources, because we did not have any. It was all about people working together, it was like being home schooled in a big family. We had to bring our sport equipment ourselves, it had to be communicated if we were going to do sports the next day, so it was all about relying on each other.”
Her strongest memory was being at the church rooms. “There was only one class with one teacher, Ken Wilson. Alan Russell would come in one day and Des Parker would come in for three days. Ken was responsible for teaching everything including Russian! Pat Dent was also there in the first year and many parents would come in to school and help out.”
Jacqui remembers that the sense of community extended beyond the classroom. “We would go out and cater on a Saturday night, the parents and the students, to raise money for the school. We would fundraise with parents and cater for social functions for people in the community.”
Jacqui has always had an interest in music having started learning the violin in Grade 1 at the age of six, because at the time her “friend was doing it” but then she realised “it was her thing”. She had always played through primary school and in ensembles. At St Paul’s, as the school was small, she did a lot of her music through correspondence, but does remember the development of the Performing Arts within the school.
“We did not have a full music program, everything was mainly external, but we did have a choir run by Joyce Parker with six kids in the first year and we performed at the eisteddfod. I also remember the musical about ‘Jonah and The Whale’ where the main lead had broken his arm roller skating earlier that day, but he still performed in the show that night. As the school went on there was the ‘Mikado’ and ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ and I remember Des Parker and Joyce Parker taking the lead roles as there was such a small population of students.”
Jacqui also remembers the Language Program in the early days of St Paul’s which was supervised by Andrea Truckenbrodt who had a strong affiliation with the Goethe-Institut in Germany. Jacqui also found the international tour to Germany was really beneficial for her studies of German in Year 12.
“Much like the St Paul’s French and Japan Study tours of today, in 1986 we went to Germany with three of weeks school at the Goethe-Institut in Bavaria and then a week with a host family in Berlin. This was definitely a time of personal growth and it encouraged us to venture out of our small town. It was very beneficial for our German and really set a positive tone for coming back and completing Year 12 with a new level of enthusiasm. The Goethe-Institut ran the tour and the school joined their tour, all facilitated by Andrea through the school.”
When we asked Jacqui about her teachers she said “Rob Devling was probably the most significant role model for me, he was very empowering. He was a great influence in learning about self and growing a sense of identity.”
“We went to a ski camp and Rob’s brother, a psychodrama therapist who provided some psychodrama workshops relating to identify and self which, at the time, was one of our themes in English. This camp was really good for me because I was not confident at all, even though people thought I was. Rob’s teaching focus would have been the equivalent to Year 9 Program now with a focus on personal growth”.
Throughout her secondary years she remembers other staff such as Marilyn Davidson, Kerry Milner and, Gary Prime and Gary Cumming who still teach at St Paul’s today.
“It was a good fun, time. In secondary school at St Paul’s, I do not ever remember having a day that I thought I did not want to go to school.”
After graduating from St Paul’s Jacqui dropped music for her first year of university and studied German Language/Literature, Japanese and Linguistics. She took a break from this to work in Finance at the Head Office of airline, Ansett.
She then decided to pursue her music and completed her music degree at Monash University as a double major with German Language and Literature. At this stage she really wanted to pursue Music Therapy, but there were not any positions available, so she started nursing at Monash University – but that did not go so well as she realised that she fainted at the sight of blood!
Jacqui then started instrumental teaching at St Paul’s in 1996 and even took on the shared job of Music Secretary in the St Paul’s Performing Arts department, a job she shared with Prue Vermay. During this time Jacqui was able to complete her Diploma of Education. A position opened at Warragul North Primary School and Jacqui taught music there for sixteen years, having her children in the meantime.
When asked what she likes the most about her job she said “What I love the most and I am lucky I can do this because I teach across both schools, is that I can see the students grow – I have contact with them their entire schooling career, I watch them grow from Prep to secondary and I have been able to see this across a couple of generations stemming from my teaching at Warragul North.”
“I also love seeing students who have struggled to find their strength, finally find something they like. It gives them a sense of belonging and purpose. For some kids it is sport and for others if they can just immerse themselves in their instrument, it changes their whole direction and pathway – I love how music has the power to do that. It may not always be their focus, but it can become an outlet and a stress relief.”
Jacqui has for many years, been involved with the Community Strings group which is open to all members of the community to play in a relaxed environment as a way to develop their skills in the company of fellow string players.
“I really love the Community Strings. I have run this group over the past twenty years and eventually the program was incorporated into the St Paul’s Performing Arts Department. We have people of all ages from Preps through to parents who attend, we have entire families who participate.”
She feels the group really does bring the community together. “I love watching the students bond when they have nothing else in common except for their music and then all of a sudden they mesh together and it just works.”
She has even developed a mentoring program within the Community Strings where the senior students mentor a primary student and are responsible for everything from their music; to setting them up; to sitting with them at the rehearsal; to spending time with them to help them learn their part if they need to. “I have seen really reserved students who take on a mentoring role and metamorphose into these amazing human beings, flourishing with this sense of responsibility – it is really helpful for me too!”
“I will say to the students that if you can teach it, you know it and if you do not know it, then how are you going to teach it? It is good for their own musicality and their own skill development.”
At St Paul’s Jacqui is currently the Orchestral Strings Coordinator, a Year 7 Mentor Teacher, a Years 7 to 9 Music Teacher, the Warragul Campus Year 2 Strings Program teacher and she also runs the Senior Ensemble, the Chamber Ensemble and two Community Strings ensembles. She also currently teaches a number of instrumental students through the St Paul’s Performing Arts Co-curricular Program! Jacqui is also the Vice-President of the St Paul’s Alumni Association.
When we asked Jacqui about what she likes about St Paul’s she said “What I like is the sense of respect between everybody. People will respect each other for what their strengths are and will support each other trying something a little bit different, or a bit out of their comfort zone. There is a sense of acceptance”.
What Jacqui finds to be the most challenging is “not having enough time” with rehearsals before school, teaching during the day and teaching after school. “I am lucky and I do love what I do. I like the constant contact and I like being busy. I have always been a bit busy so this suits me and keeps me engaged.”
Outside of work Jacqui loves spending time with her family, running around with her children to their sports or co-curricular commitments. After a recent hit on the green, she is thinking about maybe taking up golf again. “One day when my work commitments change, I think I will reconnect with golf. I played before I had children – I find it completely frustrating, but it is great exercise and I like the challenge!”