Tutors and topics

We are often asked about the people who have worked as our seminar tutors – who they are, and what kind of subjects they have taught.  Frequently we are asked what qualifications our teaching staff has.   In fact they are a mixed bunch – some have many qualifications including doctorates, some do not.  Often the most highly qualified are not teaching the topic they are qualified in.   A lecturer in Theology has taught Bush Survival Skills and Art Appreciation – a doctor of Applied Physics has taught Strategy Games.   We have often hired someone with no formal qualifications whatsoever…. just a burning passion for a subject that can be shared with the group in an inspirational way. Since 1990 a great many tutors and workshop leaders have been involved in HOLIDAY SEMINARS, some of whom only took part once or twice, others become something of a fixture over a number of years teaching a range of subjects.

Here is a little about the background of both the tutors and their often many and varied workshops.

Shirley Temm was one of our very first `regulars’. She was teaching in the Ancient History Department at Auckland University when we asked her to help us by adapting some of her material  down just a little to suit keen but more youthful historians. Over several years Shirley taught, among other things, UNDERSTANDING HEIROGLYPHS, ALL ABOUT ANCIENT EGYPT and CELTIC BRITAIN for us to great applause.

In the first few years there was a demand for us to provide language workshops. Catherine Ballon of Alliance Francais taught FRENCH, Sachiyo Torgersen was our expert in JAPANESE, Eric van Reijn a gifted linguist taught ARABIC and LATIN, Susan Sun taught MANDARIN, Rimma Katz was our expert in RUSSIAN and ITALIAN was provided by Guiseppe Gallina.    Slowly the desire to absorb foreign tongues in the school holidays declined and was replaced by other hot topics.

Debbie Penk who is now the Principal of Acorn Academy taught a variety of classes over a number of years:  IMPROVE LANGUAGE SKILLS, EXPLORING NAMES, FOLK TALES OF THE WORLD, LATIN & THE ROMANS, THE WORLD OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, MYSTERY OF STONEHENGE and more besides.   

James Bagnall was with us from the onset and first become involved in gifted education via the teenage live-in seminars organised in the late nineteen eighties by Shirley Millward and Jean Hendy-Harris at Auckland University.    When Jean moved on to providing similar seminars for younger students, Jim expressed an interest in being involved and taught at his first junior event in January 1993, an  Anthropology workshop APES & MEN. For the following nine years he was a regular, his workshops ranging through  THE JUSTICE SYSTEM, DEBATING, DEMOCRACY EXPLAINED, DREAMS & DREAMING, EVOLUTIONARY STUDIES, MASTERMIND QUIZ, MEDIATION & NEGOTIATION, PSYCHOLOGY OF HUMOUR, LOOKING AT SOAP OPERAS, BODY LANGUAGE and much, much more.    Perhaps his most popular units for a number of years were those allied to understanding the legal processes of New Zealand.    Over several years he took groups of students to both the District and High Courts to sit in on cases and at least two ex-students opted to take up careers in Law directly as a result of these early experiences under Jim’s tuition. In 2003 Jim had become very involved in the `Families Need Fathers’ movement and became too busy to teach for us during the school holidays.    But we are still in touch – and still hopeful that he has not left us for ever!   (We will be keeping you posted on this of course.)

For three or four years Dr.Graham Gibson whom we first met via the Dept. of Geology at the University, worked with the younger children, teaching IDENTIFYING FOSSILS, FLAX STICKS TECHNOLOGY, GEOLOGICAL SCIENCE, MAPS & MODELS, DINOSAURS, and conducted a number of very popular INVENTORS’ WORKSHOPS.

In the mid nineteen nineties the enthusiasm of Josef Hurtubise swelled the ranks, teaching ASPECTS OF HISTORY, COMPARATIVE RELIGION, CREATIVE WRITING, ORIGINS OF CIVILISATION, ROMANCE LANGUAGES, SCIENCE FICTION and REVOLUTION & DICTATORSHIP. Josef left for a spell on foreign shores and almost at the same time there was a sudden surge of demand for technology workshops and John Luzak who is now at Sancta Maria College, taught ELECTRONICS, DESIGN  and for a couple of years we could not keep up with the demand for his very popular CLOCKMAKERS’ WORKSHOP.  

All matters aligned to ROCKETRY were very popular over some years so Gerry Munden  was almost a fixture at one time with workshops entitled  BE A ROCKET SCIENTIST, DESIGN A ROCKET, FLIGHTS OF THE FUTURE, JOURNEY INTO SPACE, ROCKETRY SYMPOSIUM and SPACE SHUTTLE.

Gloria Witheford has been taking ASTRONOMY workshops for us almost ten years and in recent times has been able to give the children the added thrill of experiencing Starlab!

Penny Wilson of Selwyn College taught umpteen CHEMISTRY workshops for the junior groups for a while whilst Joan Monahan of Auckland Girls’ Grammar School  was involved regularly in BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE with the slightly older groups – who all agreed that the dissections were very exciting!

As you will have gathered, there are fads and fancies as far as the students are concerned and although clock making or chemistry might be what everyone wants to do for a year or two, just as suddenly they move on to something else and then we find that it is impossible to fill a chemistry class and we are left shaking our heads in amazement.

As explained, some tutors work with us just once or twice – some for a year or so, but some stay on over a long period and become something of a fixture. This depends on two things - one is obviously if the tutor concerned is providing something that simply does not diminish in popularity (Magic Tricks a good example of something that refuses to go away) – and secondly if he or she is flexible in outlook, understands that the young are fickle, and is  willing to think outside the square and adapt topics to suit changing tastes.

Ken Ring is both an international award winning Magician, a professional Mathematician and broadcaster and has been with us since 1997 with his particular combination of MATHS and MAGIC;  two or three years ago he added his WEATHER PREDICTION module to the melting pot.

Professional Director, Actor and Artist, Paul Willis, hailing from California, joined us at about the same time as Ken, first teaching his PUPPETRY and CARTOON ART classes in late 1997. Paul was keen to take Drama sessions and confessed to an abiding love of SHAKESPEARE.    Very soon children as young as eight and nine were experiencing THEATRE IN THE ROUND and loving it.    Paul has hosted numerous sessions over the years such as RENAISSANCE THEATRE SHOW, COMPUTER ART & DESIGN, CLOWNING & COMEDY, COMIC BOOK PUBLISHER, DRAWING TECHNIQUES, THE HISTORY OF ANIMATION, ACTING FOR FILMS & TV, and more.   He remains one of our most popular and inspirational teachers.   He is at present HOD Drama at an Auckland Secondary School.

Russell Greenwood first appeared on the horizon in 1994 and is still with us.  His extraordinary skills and versatility have enabled him to provide us with a wide range of modules including  ADVANCED WORD SKILLS, ARCHITECTURE, ART APPRECIATION, ASPECTS OF HISTORY, BOOKWORMS’ BONANZA, UNDERSTANDING CHAUCER, CLASSICS, DEBATING, FILM & FICTION, GREEKS & ROMANS, HISTORY OF THE CARTOON, JOURNALISM, PROPAGANDA, DRAMA, LITERATURE, MEDIA ANALYSIS, PEOPLE IN HISTORY, PLAGUE & PESTILENCE, POLITICAL STRATEGIES EXPLAINED, PROPHECY & PREDICTION, SCRIPT WRITING, SOCIAL HISTORY, SURVIVAL, STORY TELLING…….and the list goes on!

We have hosted numerous PHILOSOPHY workshops and among our most popular tutors were Vanya Kovach, Clinton Golding, Anne-Maree Olley and Richard Viskovich.

There has always been an interest in CHESS but it proved hard to find a suitable tutor until we came across Ewen Green who coaches New Zealand junior champions.    Later Ewen introduced us to Junior Chess Tournaments Adjudicator  Dr. Tony Booth  who taught both courses in September 2006.

Two or three years ago we were lucky enough to meet Pru & Richard Lees who have conducted a number of social history workshops, including the very popular TOY TECHNOLOGY where a lightning journey back in time introduces the students to the intricacies of the toys our great grandparents played with – and what is more, how to make them!

Nicholas Oram is a Doctor of Psychology but has wide ranging abilities and interests – one of which is performance poetry.  He joined the team less than two years ago and has enthusiastically planned a number of very interesting workshops, PERFORMANCE POETRY, MATHEMATICS, CODES & CIPHERS, EXAMINING CHANCE & DESTINY for starters - and he has more in store.   He will be hosting a section of our 2007 on line Kids Club.

In 1998 Patrick Harris and Andrew Gibson, both professional musicians, stepped aside from their more usual daily routine of teaching violin, and instead conducted their very first game of DIPLOMACY where by negotiation and mediation the  students attempt to alter the outcome of World War One. Despite a shaky start (we wondered whether the concepts involved in such a complex game could be absorbed within the time frame we had available) – it was a huge success with some attendees becoming devoted fans and attending course after course.

We have been very lucky to have with us from time to time both Elaine le Sueur and Robyn Boswell, both Ministry of Education Gifted Education Advsors. Robyn is also National Director of Future Problem Solving NZ. Elaine has taught a wide range of topics  THINKING SKILLS, ETHICS, PSYCHOLOGY, SCRAPBOOKING and most recently her astoundingly successful CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION. Robyn has given us MORALS & ETHICS and of course FUTURE PROBLEM SOLVING.

There is of course not time or space here to mention everyone who has contributed so much over the years to the on-going success of the seminars.  Above are listed just some of the dedicated people who have worked, and hopefully will continue to work with us, together with samples of the programmes they have planned.

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