Hero photograph
Staff of 2019
Photo by Kelk Photography

Staff Notes

Ms J Riethmaier —

The newly re-vamped Staff Room proved a warm welcome back to the returning teachers and we thank the Boards for funding this upgrade and for moving the Work Room facilities to the former H4. The bright and airy surroundings saw more and more staff gathering at lunch-time as well as for the usual morning tea, especially on Fridays.

Pauline Duthie

2019 saw more than the usual comings and goings on the staff, including the eagerly awaited arrival of our new Principal, Mrs Pauline Duthie, who took over the reins on 4 March, having finished as Principal at Christchurch Girls’ in the preceding week. The Year 13 students had already had the chance to spend an evening with her, when she gave up time at the start of her own school year to give the after dinner address and to chat with the girls at their Leadership Camp, before flying back to Christchurch the following morning. Her Commissioning Service, held at Knox Church on 1 May, was a wonderful opportunity for the wider Columba community to welcome Mrs Duthie and to acknowledge the depth of experience, passion and commitment she brings to the College. It was not long before she identified areas she felt could be improved, starting with bright new furniture for the Junior School, followed by an upgrade of their classrooms and facilities and the development of a Strategic Plan to guide the College through its next decade. Students, staff and parents have all appreciated Mrs Duthie’s open, approachable manner, her sense of humour and her genuine desire to support each student to achieve her or his very best, while at the same time enjoying their time at school.

New staff members welcomed at the start of the year:

Mr Andrew Barlow joined the Department of Mathematics, having previously taught at Bayfield High School, then trained as an Anglican Minister and served in a diocese in Wellington.

Mr Aaron Everett came from King’s High School to join the Departments of Science and Chemistry.

Mr Andrew Sparrow, already well known to us from his practicum based at Columba in 2018, was appointed to the Department of Science.

Mrs Kathryn Lodge and Mrs Jennifer Crump were appointed jointly to shareteaching the Year 6 class.

We also welcomed back Mrs Ella Murdoch, who was appointed to a one-year position in the Department of English, covering Ms Kate Lindsay’s classes during her year’s leave. Mr Alan Williams, came out of his recent retirement and straight from the ski slopes of Sapporo to cover the Mathematics classes formerly taught by Ms Amanda Goodwin, who had been appointed as full-time Music Teacher at Taieri High School at the end of 2018. Miss Ashley Wilson then took over the permanent position teaching Mathematics to Years 7 – 11 at the start of March.

Ms Teresa Andrew assumed the role of HoD Visual Arts in May following Ms Kezia Field’s decision to take extended leave at the start of Term 2, which meant a re-shuffle of some of the classes. Ms Jac Dwyer, a former HoD Visual Arts at Columba, took over Year 13 Painting, having also been appointed HoD Technology at the start of the year. Ms Suzie Dixon took over the Years 12 and 13 Photography classes and Ms Rebecca Steel, already a familiar face as a relief teacher, taught Art to Years 8 and 9.

There were also numerous changes in the Support Staff team. Miss Lizzie McKenzie left her role as the Principal’s PA on 4 February to prepare for her wedding on 9 February, before starting in her new position at the University of Otago’s School of Medicine. She will be remembered fondly by us all for her efficiency and initiative, as well as the laughter she brought to the Admin. Office. Her resignation was followed by a re-shuffle of the office roles, with Mrs Liz Gold appointed Principal’s Executive Assistant, and Mrs Dawn Hope taking over as Office Manager and Ms Jan McKnight as School Secretary. The Development Officer, Mrs Caroline Rowe, resigned at the end of March and was replaced later in the year by Mrs Vivienne Seaton. The Accounts Department also saw some changes with Mrs Sharon Savage leaving in Term 4 to take up a position at the ODT and Ms Julie Sabiston joining the team.

We were sorry to farewell our Caretaker, Mr Nick Woolliscroft, at the start of the year. His cheerful presence around the school and willingness to offer his help, both to teachers and to students, was much appreciated. Mr Mike Meiklejohn started as the newly appointed Caretaker on 1 April, and we were all relieved to see he approached the role with the same energy and good humour as his predecessor.

Mrs Emma Harris, Head of Schools

At the start of Term 4 we welcomed Mrs Emma Harris, to Mrs West’s former position as Assistant Principal. She had moved from Kristin High School in Auckland at the start of the year and left her position as HoD English at Kavanagh College to accept the appointment to the Senior Leadership team at Columba.

The year also brought its share of personal ups and downs. Congratulations went to Mrs Angela Bishop and her husband James on the birth of Oscar in March and we were grateful for the relief teaching Mrs Bishop was able to do at the start of the year. We were also delighted to learn of Mr Sparrow’s engagement and that Mrs Cockcroft and Mrs Pollard are both expecting babies in 2020. We were very sorry to learn of the death of one of our former English teachers and much loved Counsellor, Dr Elizabeth Brooke-Carr, on 3 September, just one week before her poem, “Harsh Light”, won the The Dunedin Public Libraries Competition Changing Minds: Memories Lost and Found. Her collection of poems “Wanting to tell you everything” will be included as a prize in future Senior Prize Givings.

It is always sad to farewell the staff leaving Columba and this year marked the retirement of a number of long-standing members of staff, each of whom had made many valued contributions, both as teachers and as colleagues.

Mrs Christina West

Mrs Christina West

Mrs West joined the staff of Columba College in Term 3 1997 in the newly created position of Assistant Principal, having moved from St Peter’s High School in Gore, where she was Head of the Science Department. She is one of those teachers, whom students will remember for a long time to come. She had already had that effect at her previous schools and rarely does a visit to town go without an encounter with a former student, who, after an initial catch-up, thanks her for making Science “make sense” and comments that she or he can still recite the Periodic Table. The weeks of the final count down to Mrs West’s retirement at the end of Term Three brought an outpouring of appreciation by our students for all that she has meant to them. Those students fortunate enough to have been taught by her know how passionate she is about sharing her love of all things biological with them, with clear explanations followed by notes and diagrams on the board and the weekly quiz to check that all have learnt and understood the week’s work; no power points or kahoots in her classes, just good old-fashioned teaching interspersed with practical advice for leading a happy, fulfilled life and anecdotes from her vast personal repertoire of experiences and pleas for help with her “text machine”. Many students encountered her in the detention room or at the end of make-up wipes and nail polish remover, and quickly realised that underneath her “scary” exterior beats a heart of gold and a genuine concern to send all Columba students into the wider world with an appreciation of what is important in life: a willingness to work hard and the ability to forge positive relationships with others and to laugh every day and support each other through the complexities that they will face, urging them “to hold fast to the moral code taught by your parents and your school.”

Mrs West’s energy will be remembered by students and staff alike for years to come. Her efficiency in organising exams, reports, collating prize-giving, overseeing attendance, running up and down the side-line of football matches shouting encouragement, lending a helping hand in the most menial of tasks, are all legendary. But most of all, we thank her for being the most caring, kind teacher and colleague we all could ever ask for, and for all she has done for Columba over her twenty-two years here. As a boarding student said in one of the many farewell speeches: “Mrs West, you have been a rock for this school through all its ups and downs and it’s a shame that we have to lose you, but we understand there are bigger and better things for you to move on to, like looking after those gorgeous grandchildren of yours.” We farewell her with every good wish for the long an happy retirement she deserves.

Mrs Jill Walker

Mrs Jill Walker

At the end of 2019 Mrs Walker relinquished her position as the longest serving member of staff for the past few years and decided to take full retirement, having already cut her hours back in the previous year. She joined the team of private Speech and Drama teachers in 1984 and over the years she guided many students from the Junior School up through their New Zealand Speech Board and Trinity College examinations, seeing a considerable number right through to completing the modules for ATCL. Inevitably she ended up teaching the children of former students, all of whom enjoyed her warm, friendly manner and the extra lessons she generously gave as examinations loomed. She also had a special rapport with the many international students she tutored and often opened her home to them. She was an active member of the New Zealand Speech Board Association, including a spell as its President. She also became a qualified examiner for the NZ Speech Board, which took her all over New Zealand, leaving her network of colleagues to continue her classes at Columba. For several years Mrs Walker also ran the Junior Drama Club and directed its annual production, the most notable being “Bugsy Malone”. Although not officially a member of the teaching staff, Mrs Walker was very much part of the staff, and taught students at all levels from Year 0 to Year 13. We wish her all the best as she moves from Columba to spending more time with family and friends dotted around New Zealand and Australia.

Ms Pauline McNeill — Image by: Kelk Photography

Ms Pauline McNeill

Ms McNeill joined the Columba staff at the start of 2001, as a full-time teacher of Mathematics and Statistics from Years 9 – 13, having previously taught at Kaikorai Valley and Queen’s High Schools, including time as HoD Mathematics in both schools. She quickly made her mark as a teacher who was not only passionate about her subject but also about making students, and girls in particular, feel positive about Maths. Her classroom was always adorned with colourful displays and she carefully scaffolded her lessons to help students of all abilities work their way logically through their course, always checking they were understanding each step along the way. She was an enthusiastic advocate of the Numeracy Project and was appointed Numeracy Co-ordinator for Years 9 and 10 from 2005 – 8 and in 2008 - 2011 she represented PPTA on the Ministry of Education’s Secondary Numeracy Project. during which time she also became interested in incorporating Maori Language into Numeracy, and presented workshops locally and nationally on this topic. Ms McNeill was also a keen member of PPTA and served for many years on the Regional Branch, as Treasurer and as Chairperson. She worked tirelessly in this role, particularly for women and supporting PPTA negotiations for better conditions for teachers.

Over her years at Columba Ms McNeill also made a full contribution to co-curricular activities, supporting Netball and spending many Saturdays at the Edgar Centre, making costumes for musical productions and sharing her love of knitting with students. In 2018 she cut back her teaching role to half-time, retaining her involvement as Regional Chair of PPTA and her Years 12 and 13 classes but also adding Year 8 Maths to her repertoire, which she particularly enjoyed. At the end of 2019 she decided to retire to have more time to spend with her family and pursuing her own interests. We thank her for her dedication to teaching and for the support has has provided for so many students, particularly in helping them achieve success in a subject they may have initially found challenging. We wish her all the best for a long and happy retirement.

Mr Neil Mains

Mr Neil Mains

Mr Neil Mains started at Columba College as a full-time teacher of Mathematics and Statistics at the beginning of 2006, having previously taught at Ngaruawahia High School, Tamaki College, Auckland Grammar School and Diocesan School for Girls, before returning to Dunedin to take up the position at Columba. At Diocesan he had also been Careers Advisor and was appointed to this role at Columba following Mrs Thornton’s retirement at the end of 2011. Mr Mains continued teaching Year 13 Statistics and Years 11 and 9 Mathematics and set about extending the Careers Programme to include units offered at Years 9 and 10, in addition to those in the Senior School. He constantly reviewed and adapted each of these programmes to match the rapidly changing employment world, and also helped senior students with options for tertiary study or Gap years. He retained links to former students and organised sessions for them to speak about their experiences beyond school. Students appreciated his very calm, approachable manner and his genuine interest in helping them plot the next course of their education. In addition to his love of music and theatre, Mr Mains was a very keen swimmer and looked after the Swimming and the Water Polo Teams for a number of years. In 2018 he reduced his hours to slightly more than half-time, retaining a Year 13 Statistics class and continuing to run the Careers programme and STAR fund until retiring at the end of 2019. We thank him for the many contributions has made to Columba and wish him a very happy retirement as he divides his time between Wanaka and Dunedin, as well as overseas travel, although Covid 19 has sadly put this on hold for the meantime.

Mr Richard Madden — Image by: Kelk Photography

Mr Richard Madden

Mr Madden came to Columba College in July 2007 as Director of Music, following 26 years at St Hilda’s Collegiate and a brief spell following other career paths. His vibrant energy, keen sense of humour and deep seated love of music were very quickly appreciated by his students and colleagues, and his stylish dress sense brought colour to our staff room. He had been a member of the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir since boyhood, and served as its Director, as well as a period as Choir Director at Knox College and Director of the Royal Dunedin Male Choir. The Columba choirs, orchestra and chamber music groups all benefited from his vast musical experience and his talent as a composer and conductor, and we were all thrilled that he was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours list The wall by his desk in the Music Room was covered with tributes and notes of appreciation from his former students and those whom he mentored through Chamber Music Contests. We have also enjoyed his tales of visiting his son and daughter in Britain and their close association with the Royal Family. Mr Madden is retiring with his wife to their house in Clyde and he will be sorely missed, both at Columba and on the wider Dunedin music scene. We wish him and Robyn all the best as they settle into Central Otago, where, no doubt, he will quickly become involved in the music scene there.

Ms Kezia Field — Image by: Kelk Photography

Ms Kezia Field

Ms Field was initially HoD Art at Columba from 1997 – 2000 and re-joined the staff of the Visual Arts Department at the start of 2006, becoming its HoD once again in 2014, following the resignation of Mr Adrian Cartwright. Over her time at Columba she taught the Senior Painting and Photography classes as well as Junior Art. Students benefited from her experience as a practising artist and enjoyed the many ways in which she promoted and displayed their works, from “Artist of the Week” in nearby cafés, newsletters and in competitions. At the end of 2019 Ms Field decided to make her extended leave permanent so she could explore other avenues to develop as an artist, possibly even moving into floral art. The Columba community has enjoyed watching her develop her painting of Russian stacking dolls, giving them a decidedly New Zealand flavour. She was particularly thrilled when she spotted one she had designed and painted for Prime Minister Ardern, sitting on a shelf behind her in a photo. She also painted a Columba version which she gifted to the College and which now decorates the Admin. Foyer. We wish Ms Field all the best as she pursues life as a full-time artist and thank her for her contributions over her time at Columba.

Other staff farewelled at the end of the year were Mrs Jennifer Crump, Ms Jac Dwyer, Ms Kate Hope, Ms Anna Leese, Ms Kate Lindsay and Mrs Ella Murdoch, as well as our two language assistants for 2019, Miss Solène de Cornulier Lucinière and Miss Lifang Jin, and Mrs Keighley Cockcroft, who will be on maternity leave for 2020. We thank them all for their contributions to Columba College and wish them all the very best for the next chapter of their lives.

Below is a list of our Board members.