Humans of St John’s
Welcome to the latest edition of Humans of St John’s featuring our Learning Enhancement and Support Teacher for Secondary, Mrs Fiona Gunthorpe as she shares with us her journey from a sugar cane farm in North Queensland to St John’s.
I spent my childhood growing up on a sugar cane farm, west of Mackay in North Queensland. It was isolated, however, intertwined with imagination, creativity, determination and always doing the best you can. After school involved helping my Father and Grandfather on the farm, shifting irrigation pipes, anything to get behind the wheel of the farm ute. School holidays were spent at the family beach house, a time with lots of friends, swimming, fishing, prawning and crabbing. Special times were with our family friends when the five of us kids would be dropped off on Roylen Bay, an uninhabited island in the Goldsmith group with a golden beach and clear blue waters, whilst our parents went fishing for the day. One of my sweetest childhood memories was raising $20,000 for children with cerebral palsy, and a bonus was being crowned Miss Sugar Industry and Miss Sugar Industry Fundraiser and attending the weeklong judging for Miss Queensland in Brisbane.
I left school after Year 10 to join the Department of Public Works, in Mackay as a typist, transitioning quickly into the role of wages clerk, followed by accounts payable and receivable, procurement, relieving Finance Manager, all while completing an Associate Diploma of Business (Accounting) part-time. Leaving good old Mackay, I moved to Brisbane in 2001 married my husband at Mt Tamborine and commenced at Roma Street Parkland as a foundation staff member. I began conducting tours, the first was with the Police Commissioner, followed by parkland visitors, then I recruited, trained, and coordinated a team of 50 volunteers to provide visitor assistance and tours. As the Parkland developed, I had the amazing opportunity to develop procedures to facilitate events and work closely with the Premier’s Department event staff on major community events.
I completed my bachelor’s degree in Teaching majoring in Home Economics and Business after my three children were born. My first time at university – of course, I gave it my all, achieving a University Medal for the highest GPA in my graduating cohort. My passion was in the kitchen teaching students to cook healthy meals – a valuable lifelong skill, as well as bringing real-life context to students in business classrooms and inspiring students to achieve and be the best version of themselves.
My move to St John’s has been another exciting phase of my career, drawn by faith and courage to develop a program that academically challenges students, as well as creating opportunities for through the SOAR program for bespoke personalised student pathways, an opportunity for St John’s to be responsive and progress students toward their chosen career pathway. The SOAR program was designed to provide extension and acceleration opportunities and introduced as a trial for Year 10 students in 2020, followed by implementation of the program for students in Years 7 to 10 in 2021 as well as Junior SOAR for students in Years 5 and 6. I am inspired every day as I witness the growth of students as they engage in the program such as participation in work placements and experiences, masterclasses and commencing university courses whilst still at College. My role at St John’s now extends into career education. It is the spark that ignites within students when they discover options for their future pathway that makes my role at St John’s truly fulfilling.