Mr Chris Stearn – Head of House – Groom Boarding

Mr Chris Stearn & family, Head of House - Groom Boarding

The values of hard work, giving back to others and the importance of family are the driving factors in Chris Stearn’s teaching career.

The new Toowoomba Grammar School Head of Groom House was raised in England. His father was a Woodwork teacher and his mother a primary school teacher spealising in textiles.

“I never thought I’d be a teacher,” stated Mr Stearn with a smile.

“It didn’t appeal to me after watching my parents; it was the last career on my list but when I finished high school and all my friends went to university in the city, I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do either.

“I was more like my parents than I realized. I wanted to look after people, look after children and once I accepted that, my life suddenly became much happier.”

Chris fondly remembers spending hours of an afternoon after school helping his Dad make wooden toys to sell at craft fairs together on a weekend. That experience instilled in him a very good work ethic and great social skills. His decision to follow in his parents’ footsteps as a teacher, coupled with his desire to achieve at the highest level, and step outside his comfort zone in doing so, has led to rich and rewarding life experiences that he can share with his students.

As part of his geography studies during university, Chris spent months working at Rothera, in Antarctica, Namibia and even at Broken Hill.

An avid cricketer, he has also been on cricket tours to Calcutta, Barbados and Cape Town and during his teaching and coaching career in England he conducted regular school excursions to Morocco, Jordan and Iceland.

He said his academic success as a young man was driven by his love of cricket. Chris went to Bedford School in Years 11 and 12 to play cricket, which opened doors for him to attend Oxford University where he worked hard because of the opportunity to play First Class cricket. Scoring 50 in the annual Oxford versus Cambridge Varsity Match at Lords’ is certainly reward for such efforts.

“I learnt a lot about life through cricket. The elation of making the top team, the devastation of missing selections or being dropped,” said Chris.

“It’s made me a better person – you learn to either give up or work harder and I choose to work harder.

“That’s something I can share, and relate with, the students I teach in both a sport and academic context.”

After Oxford University, Chris completed his Masters at Cambridge University before returning to Oxford for his PhD. His first role was a Geography teacher in 2006, coincidentally at Bedford School under the guidance of his former Geography teacher, Mr Richard Walker, who remains a mentor today. His boarding experience also commenced at Bedford School as a Resident Deputy Boarding House Master.

Chris has also taught and worked in boarding at King Edwards, Birmingham and Cranleigh School. He has coached Cricket, Hockey and Rugby and has been a boarding master for both all boys and all girls which helps him relate to the struggles that adolescents face, as he’s experienced both sides.

“I realised very early on that anything can happen in boarding, and you have to have the calmness and clarity of thought to deal with any situation,” Chris said.

“You’re dealing with kids, you can’t predict anything, you never know what to expect and often in times of crisis the boarders will pull together and are wonderful and reliable.”

With a desire for change a few years ago, Chris’ wife Catherine suggested they move to New Zealand or Australia as they both had connections there. Chris had played for the Gold Coast Dolphins Cricket Club during his ‘gap year’ when he was 18 years old. He returned to Australia for his 30th birthday to watch The Ashes, proposing to Catherine in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens during the visit.

So, on January 1 2020, the couple and their two young sons, Teddy and Hugo (now 8 and 5 years old respectively) arrived in Ballarat to teach at Clarendon College.

“This was a huge learning curve for me,” recalled Chris.

“Not only did I have to learn about the Australian education system, but COVID hit, so I was thrown into online learning too!”

Although he enjoyed his time at Clarendon, his desire to return to a position as a pastoral leader came to the fore and it was with much excitement that he has made the move to Toowoomba Grammar School.

“It’s a holistic education at TGS and the boys are given the opportunity to be celebrated as individuals and excel in any area that they are passionate about,” said Chris.

“I’m all about helping boys become better human beings. It doesn’t matter where they go or what they do after school as long as they’re good citizens and can tackle the challenges of life after school. That’s what a real educator provides.”

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