This month’s teacher spotlight is on Newington jack-of-all-trades Steve Muir. Mr Muir is our New Zealand born and bred Head of Moulton House and one of our PDHPE teachers. On weekends, he transforms into a master of music, enjoying jam sessions with his family.
Our Q&A with Mr Muir reveals some crazy travel stories and his most memorable moments as a teacher.
Q: Why did you choose teaching as your profession?
A: I got into teaching because I loved sport and wanted to make a career out of it. I was playing rugby league on the Central Coast and would travel into Sydney to attend my lectures at Sydney University, then commute back to the Central Coast to go to my training sessions. I had a passion for travelling and enjoyed communicating with the younger generations, and I knew teaching would give me that opportunity.
Q: What is your most memorable teaching moment?
A: I have had 20 years of memorable moments and I am blessed to be teaching at Newington College. However, one of the most rewarding moments I have had was at Whitefield College in north-west London, in an extremely low socio-economic catchment area. There were more than 60 different languages represented with the majority of students coming from Afro-Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Asian or travelling backgrounds. I was a Head of Year for a group with significant educational challenges. I took this group on because not many people wanted the responsibility of trying to steer these boys and girls in the right direction. To cut a long story short, we managed to get some amazing results in their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations and even though I left Whitefield in 2008, I still hear from many of my students and have caught up with some who have been travelling in Australia. They always say that the difference was somebody spending time with them, demonstrated that they were important, and they felt safe and loved.
Q: Tell us an interesting stories that your colleagues might not know.
A: I have been held at gunpoint twice while backpacking. The first time was in Istanbul Turkey and the second time by border control in Hungary. I had no visa to get into Hungary and I had jumped on a train to Budapest without thinking I needed one. They made me walk along the train tracks for five hours until I was back across the border to Romania. Once there, I hitched a ride in a horse-drawn cart to a small Romanian village where I was put up for two days until I figured a way out to get back into Hungary as I was meeting a friend in Budapest. I then had to walk 50km to a border crossing called Nadlac where I managed to talk my way into getting a three-day visa for Hungary. Once I crossed to the border, I had to walk another 20km to the nearest train station and finally jumped on a train to Budapest, four days late, only to discover the person I was meeting had left.
Q: What made you want to work at Newington?
A: There are so many things that appealed to me about working at Newington. I loved the culture of the place; it reminded me of my old school in New Zealand. Our connection with Tonga adds so much value to everyone. The boys are grounded and our families tend to be extremely supportive of our initiatives. Newington has a strong sense of social justice, which is close to my heart, and I have truly enjoyed making connections with communities outside Sydney. We have some of the most amazing facilities and I am so grateful to have these resources at my disposal. The quality of leadership at the school makes for a cohesive and professional staff environment.
Q:What is different about the pastoral and sports programs at Newington?
A: Our pastoral program caters to the whole student. The House system allows us to get to know all of the boys extremely well, and in their mentors they have an advocate for their needs. This is greater than any other school I have taught at and demonstrates that grades are just numbers at the end of the day; honesty, integrity and hard work are qualities that remain with you for life.
Our sports studies programs and sports programs, like the pastoral program, have a general focus on the whole student. They are about achieving your personal best. They teach students that teamwork, hard work and leadership are key factors to success. I feel that Newington gets it right in focusing on what is important in the development of our young men. The journey is often as important as the destination.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?
A: I love music and have played the guitar for many years. I also sing and have played a couple of gigs. Nothing makes me happier than playing and singing with my three children who also play. It is how we spent many nights during the lock-down period.