Last Saturday night over 100 supporters from local churches gathered to say thank you to Glenn and Heather Starr for their many years of teaching Special Religious Education at The Jannali High School (and before that Jannali Boys’ High School). Glenn has been a well-loved part of the Jannali community, having taught not only the current generation of students, but in many cases their parents as well! He decided earlier this year that 2017 will be his final year of teaching SRE in the school.
There have been many developments in high school SRE over the past three decades. SRE is far more structured than it used to be with an authorised curriculum in place, teacher training and accreditation standards, safe ministry practices, government working with children check requirements and so on. Glenn has needed to keep up to speed with each of these changes as they have come. He’s also had his fair share of difficult classes over the years, yet has never lost his enthusiasm for teaching the Christian faith within the classroom. Glenn has left a legacy of students who have been convinced by the Bible that trusting in Jesus Christ is the most important thing in life. Many students from Glenn’s classes have gone on to train and serve in ministry in other schools, in local churches, and on the mission field.
This is what Glenn had to say in a recent school newsletter:
“Teaching SRE for over 31 years might be some sort of record! Almost every day it feels like I have a student tell me that I taught their mum or dad or their aunt or uncle – no reports of grandparents yet! As many of my students know, when I was their age I was the least likely person to become a follower of Jesus, let alone a minister and a teacher! But what a privilege it has been to teach at Jannali High over all these years. I love the classroom and teaching and will miss it so much. In fact, you may still see me around as a substitute SRE teacher in the coming months and years. I will be be leaving with many fond memories of my time at Jannali – what a great High School! Blessings, Mr Starr.”
On Saturday night we also welcomed and commissioned Jenn Phillips as the new SRE teacher. She has already begun teaching the Monday classes and will gradually take on more classes as the year progresses. As of the start of 2018, Jenn will be teaching the full load of classes from year 7 to year 10 at the school. Jenn is an ex-student of The Jannali High School and a member of our Saturday Church congregation. She has a PhD in English Literature and has lectured in universities in Australia and China. Jenn is currently completing her Masters in Education as well as qualifications in Theology. This leads to a few obvious questions.
Why have you decided to return to teaching Special Religious Education?
“In my work in Universities, I have had the opportunity to teach the greatest works of English Literature as well as some lesser-quality texts (Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series comes to mind!). Yet no matter how hard I look, I cannot find a book with a greater influence over culture, literature, art, politics and the world than the Christian Bible. Even as our society moves into a Post-Christian age, in my teaching and experience I have found that knowledge of the Bible can help students grapple with the big questions of our world and our place in it. The big questions of life, meaning, identity, purpose, belief and so on.”
What do you like most about teaching SRE?
“SRE is unlike any other subject. There are opportunities to discuss the big questions of life and the universe along with the moral implications for making wise life decisions in everyday situations. I have seen firsthand the value of these classes in my previous SRE position at Gymea. I look forward to seeing how these lessons will benefit the students at Jannali – just as they benefited me and my friends when Mr Starr taught us!”
Give thanks for Glenn and Heather Starr’s faithful ministry over so many years and pray for Jenn as she is passed the baton to continue the next era of SRE ministry in The Jannali High School.