Mrs Hutchinson's #teachereffect at St Mary's

Mrs Hutchinson's #teachereffect at St Mary's

We want to spend this year celebrating some of our teaching staff who help make St Mary’s School, Cambridge such an inspiring place for girls to learn and flourish. We call it the #teachereffect.

Sadly, we can’t cover all our teaching staff; however, we will be showcasing several over this year in many diverse areas and from across the school, from our Junior School to our Sixth Form. We continue our series with Mrs Julia Hutchinson, who teaches geography at our Senior School and Sixth Form. She is pictured doing one of her favourite activities - paddleboarding!

When did you start at St Mary’s?

I started working at St Marys in 2013 as a maternity cover for Mrs Norman. Luckily I was able to stay on and I took on my joint Head of Year 9 role with Mrs Beer the following year. I was also a pupil at St Mary's from the Junior school to Sixth Form alongside Mrs Landshoff who was and is a close friend of mine.

What did you do before you joined? 

I have been in teaching for 20 years, starting with my PGCE at Homerton. The majority of my teaching has been in the state sector where I was a Head of Year 7, Head of Geography and an Advanced Skills Teacher. I have been very lucky to have been given opportunities and experiences with both the academic and the pastoral sides of teaching.

Were you always interested in geography? What fuelled that interest?

I believe that being in nature is part of who I am and in my bones! The outdoors was a very important part of my childhood and I used to spend hours with my 2 sisters exploring rivers, climbing trees and making mud pies. I have always had a dog and we used to go on long walks exploring whenever we could. Studying Geography therefore felt natural as I couldn’t imagine living in a world that I didn’t understand. I loved the lessons at school (with Miss Spore!) and I always seemed to do well in Geography so thought it would be a good choice. I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career either and Geography kept the doors open. The fieldtrips were also highlights and a reason I chose it at GCSE! I remember standing chest deep in water in the middle of a river in Wales and loving every moment. The relevance and diversity of Geography has always inspired me to learn more.

What have been your highlights of working at St Mary’s?

The biggest highlight of my job is the community that I work in (staff and students). I have been so lucky to work in a wonderful, professional department where we all support and motivate each other and where we are not just colleagues but friends. Working alongside Ruth Beer (joint Head of Year 9) and with the other Heads of Year is also an absolute pleasure and they make me laugh everyday. Being an identical twin, it is great to have that close partnership in school with Mrs Beer. The girls however are the people we spend most of our time with and they are the reason we are in teaching. Their success and happiness is our aim. They want to learn but are such fun and they are not afraid to go along with new ideas. Their honesty and kindness is unlimiting and I learn so much from them all every day.

Why do you enjoy teaching?

Sometimes I do have to pinch myself that I’m being paid to do my job. Watching the girls perform, having conversations with them individually or as a year group, and teaching about the world I love and live in is a blessing! I get so much out of it personally and the job helps me to challenge my own thinking and become a better being. I work closely with many staff such as the nurses and I am always learning. It provides a constant structure and routine which are important to me but every day the issues are diverse. The job is changing as society changes and this will continue and therefore so will our roles. It does bring many challenges and I have had to realise that we can’t solve every challenge even though we want to. I enjoy seeing the girls learning to take responsibility and manage their challenges as it helps them develop their resilience which is essential to instil for life. I am keen to develop my skills further in order to support the girls.

In your opinion what are the benefits of teaching geography in an all-girls environment?

I can see the benefits of teaching Geography in any environment and to anyone! I see the students as individuals rather than by gender and they all have their individual personalities and learning styles. The girls are not afraid to show their emotions and to include different viewpoints in their work. They are kind to one another and offer praise and encouragement as well as positive feedback. This all helps to create a positive learning environment where girls flourish and reach or exceed their potential.

What do you like to do in your free time when you are not teaching?

I love nature and it is my way of managing my emotions and stresses. I love to run but this has been replaced with cycling and walking my dog (Bessie) as my ankle injury recovers. I love to go to the chalk ‘hills’ outside my village where I feel on top of the world! Paddleboarding is an activity that I have recently started to undertake and love. The calmness I feel while paddling along the Cam helps me realign my thinking and I am so keen to encourage the girls in this activity to give them time out of their screen-based world. My family also share my love of the outdoors and we enjoy these activities together. I tell many of the girls about my aim to live by the sea!

What advice do you have for all the students you have taught – past and present – to help them on their journey in life?

  • Remember how good you are.
  • We can’t change what has happened but we can control how we respond to it.
  • There’s no such thing as a bad decision.