Canterbury's favourite teacher Carmen Street says she's still learning after 25 years

Carmen Street (nee Murchie) is the winner of favourite teacher award for Canterbury. She works part time at Hillmorton ...
Joseph Johnson/Stuff

Carmen Street (nee Murchie) is the winner of favourite teacher award for Canterbury. She works part time at Hillmorton High School.

FAVOURITE TEACHER AWARDS: From the Christchurch quake tragedy to Parliament's select committees, we're travelling the country to meet some of New Zealand's best teachers.

Kylie Hall was perhaps the quietest student in Nayland College's most notorious class that year.

It was 1994 and the teacher tasked with "first controlling, secondly teaching" English to the unruly fourth formers was Carmen Murchie, two years into her first job at the Nelson school.

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"I was shy, reserved and preferred to sit in the back of the class where I wouldn't be noticed," Hall said. "I was always aware, having a mother as a teacher, of all the expectations [to succeed] placed on me and Miss Murchie just didn't have those. She never tried to change me into anybody."

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The impression Murchie, now Carmen Street, left on Hall and other students saw her named the Canterbury winner of the Favourite Teacher Awards, a partnership between Stuff, TVNZ Breakfast and Matilda, the Musical.
 
The national winner will be named on Sunday.

Hall nominated Street because she thought she would shy away from recognition of her abilities.

Street, now a part-time literacy teacher at Christchurch's Hillmorton High School, did just that.

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A teacher her whole working life, she recently completed her Masters in Education focussing on literacy and has a rare double qualification in primary and secondary teaching earned in the UK decades ago. 

"It's something that gets bandied around a bit, that idea of being an expert, but I'm always learning all the time," she said. "You (teachers) have always got to adapt; it can be a bit of a minefield." 

But Street was always drawn to the profession, even when her own teachers at Ashburton College warned her away.

"I was a little girl who used to read books to her dolls," she said.

She started working at Hillmorton High – "one of Christchurch's best kept secrets" – upon returning from the UK, later taking time out to raise sons Charlie, 8, and William, who died of cancer in 2013.

William's two years of treatment taught Street teaching was all-or-nothing for her.

"Teaching, it's all consuming, it's emotionally engaging. I never had to juggle full-time teaching and family, I don't know how people do it."

As she considers going full time again, she said the nomination from Hall was "quite a nice motivating factor, to think you can make an impact".

Hall still remembers the subtle things an enthusiastic young teacher did that made a difference.

Hall had wanted to impress her so badly that she apologised to her over a low mark on her mid-year exam, she said.

"Miss Murchie took me aside on that day and told me that one low mark did not define who I was as a person; it was my ability to learn from my mistakes and diligence.

"It was probably the first time someone had done that for me."

FAVOURITE TEACHER AWARDS REGIONAL WINNERS

Northland: Jenny Bassett
Auckland: Bex Rose
Bay of Plenty: Scott Feisst
Waikato: Richard Lloyd
Hawkes Bay/East Cape: Janene Maloney​
Taranaki: Sue Gunn
​Manawatu/Whanganui: Heidi Lutz
Wellington: Matt Johnston
Nelson: Trina Wilkinson
Marlborough: Robyn Anderson
Canterbury/West Coast: Carmen Street
​South Canterbury/Otago: Di Anderson
Southland: Elaine Forde

 - Sunday Star Times

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