Daring to dream big
When it comes to our country’s next generation of leaders and industry experts, it’s the educators dedicated to passing on their knowledge who are truly shaping the future. Tayla Arthur chats to head of college Bruce Campbell to find out how Nambour Christian College’s unique approach is inspiring the Sunshine Coast’s youth to achieve their dreams.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question every one of us remembers being asked at some point during our youth.
For some, the idea of deciding on something that far ahead is too daunting. Twelve-year-old Chloe falls into this category.
“I don’t know yet,” she says thoughtfully, but her eyes light up as she tells me about her love of dance.
Some change their vision depending on what they think is cool at the time.
“I’m going to be a surfer! Or maybe a skater!” Eight-year-old Makaha excitedly tells me, even though he’s currently dressed as a farmer for our photo shoot.
Then there are those who are set in their decision, determined to make it happen.
“I want to be a watchmaker,” our young ‘business man’ says confidently, explaining his fascination with their mechanics.
That’s the beautiful thing about childhood – the world is your oyster, and with the right education behind you, anything is possible.
Nambour Christian College has been championing this concept since it opened in 1980, led for the majority of that time by Bruce Campbell, and prides itself on fostering each individual student’s unique talents and passions in order to help them achieve their dreams.
Bruce has been the head of college for NCC since 1991, and under his active influence, this independent school has grown and flourished to become one of the Sunshine Coast’s most respected and sought after names in education. But Bruce’s service to the school actually spans back 30 years and is built upon surprisingly humble beginnings.
Bruce began his teaching career in Brisbane in 1972, followed by country service in western Queensland. In 1976, Bruce was transferred to the Sunshine Coast and after taking long service leave, resigned 10 years into his career to pursue his dream of farming. During what turned out to be an eight-year hiatus, Bruce and his family worked on a large dairy farm and bought a milk run, before growing tired of early morning starts. It was with this in mind that Bruce decided to find a job that would allow him to spend more time with his family – a decision that led him to NCC, initially as the janitor.
“I started as the cleaner in 1986 and I was chatting to the principal at the time when I was cleaning the toilets one day, and he said, ‘I’ve got a problem’,” says Bruce.
“He said, ‘I can’t find a teacher for the manual arts class’, and I said, ‘Well, I’m not a manual arts teacher, but I did all those subjects at school, come from a building family and built my own house, so I could probably help you out if you need a hand for a while’.
“After six months I decided I’d better give up cleaning because I was getting up at 4am to clean and then teaching, and at the end of my first year I was appointed deputy principal.”
Bruce spent four years as deputy before being promoted to principal, and has been leading the prestigious school ever since.
Under Bruce’s enthusiastic guidance, NCC’s numbers have exploded from the 36 pupils that attended its first year to the 1140 students currently in attendance. While Bruce credits the wholesome Christian values that form what is undeniably a strong foundation for the school as the reason behind the rise, along with ‘having the right people’ by his side, it is his ability to take the risks of introducing innovative ideas that has truly set this school apart from any other on the Sunshine Coast.
“I’m never satisfied,” explains Bruce.
“I’m one of those people who always thinks, ‘We can do this better – there’s more we can do and there are more opportunities we can give our students’. And that just drives me to look into other things and branch into new areas.
If students are looking to go into that industry, they’ve got to work with the state-of-the-art equipment here at school.”
“Today, more than ever, we’ve got to give students every opportunity we can. It’s a different world out there and they need to be able to walk out of here as confident young men and women, and to do that, we need to provide them with a very broad range of experiences, whether it’s here on campus through some of our excellent programs, or whether it’s going beyond school borders.”
Opportunity is certainly the word for it. In the hour I spend being shown around campus, I’m left in complete awe at not only the sheer size of the place, but at the incredibly innovative facilities and classes available to its students – options I only could have dreamt of when I was in school. From a highly respected creative and performing arts program with access to specialised music, film and visual arts studios, to the impressive hospitality trades skills centre containing a full training kitchen fitted with state-of-the-art industrial equipment, bakery and patisserie, as well as a cafe and hireable function room, Bruce says he is determined to provide his students with the best chance of success in their future endeavours, no matter where their passion lies.
“We wanted to create a curriculum that was broad and would cater for the needs of all students,” says Bruce of the college’s dynamic curriculum.
“We particularly wanted to do something to help students looking for traineeships and who want to do TAFE-embedded modules in subjects. Yes, we have many academically-focused students who want to go to university, which we absolutely cater for, but we also have students who are more into the creative side of things and we wanted to nurture that too.”
The hospitality course in particular is making waves among NCC’s food-loving students from Year 7 to Year 12, offering them a chance to hone their culinary skills and dining etiquette for a head start in the industry. Headed by John Shuttleworth, a teacher and qualified chef who once worked at the Sydney Opera House, it’s a program that has been developed since inspiration struck Bruce in 2004, with the most recent addition, the cookery and bakery opening at the end of 2015.
“On Tuesday mornings we run a class on pastry and baking, and at about 8.30am the ovens are opened, and if you walk past then...” he gasps, rubbing his stomach, “the things they produce! It’s very tempting!” he laughs.
Available to hire for functions, the plan is to also open the centre to the public for a meal at least once a week as part of their students’ training.
“One of the most important things for schools today is that they have got to be linked with industry,” says Bruce, “if students are looking to go into that industry, they’ve got to work with the state-of-the-art equipment here at school.”
With that sentiment in mind, the school’s very own Berakah Farm ensures NCC’s agricultural science students receive a hands-on education that is second-to-none, with lessons in egg production; chicken, vegetable and bee farming; as well as access to the school’s registered lowline cattle stud for weighing and testing. And that’s not forgetting the miniature horses, which students can learn to show and judge.
“The miniature horses are very popular – I think it’s because children are confident with an animal that is only ‘so high’. They can train that animal, take it to a show, and it’s amazing how they grow in confidence,” says Bruce.
Yes, we have many academically-focused students who want to go to university, which we absolutely cater for, but we also have students who are more into the creative side of things and we wanted to nurture that too.”
Then there are the enviable global opportunities offered through the school’s channels, from cultural exchanges to mission trips, which NCC uses to help students apply their values in a real world context.
“I’m taking a group to Malawi again this year, and to take them there and walk through a village and see the poverty, it just brings tears to your eyes. And then we sit around and say, ‘Okay guys, what can we do about this? What’s our responsibility – living in the land of milk and honey that we live in – to help these people, and how can we do that?’ And they start to realise they have a responsibility beyond themselves to help other people,” says Bruce.
“It’s about giving them purpose to lead a meaningful life. We’re hoping our students will make a real difference in the world and have an impact on the lives of others.”
The little ones aren’t forgotten either – in addition to hosting prep, primary, middle and senior school branches within the college, NCC has built an outstanding reputation for its educational child care centre, NCC early learners, and has recently taken over five other child care centres around the state. Currently enrolling children from the age of 15 months, the purpose-built facility gives children under school age a head start by not only adopting formally structured play-based learning, but also subtly introducing them to their future school environment through excursions into the college and a student mentor program.
Water safety also receives a strong focus as part of their standard daycare routine, with their early swimmers program held at NCC’s very own ‘learn to swim’ pool. Delivered to ingrain what is a vital life skill on the Sunshine Coast from an early age, this is set to be carried through to the college, with the construction of an aquatic centre not too far over the horizon.
With so much going on, the task of running it all would be daunting to anyone, but with the help of his deputies and amazing staff, Bruce remains as enthusiastic about shaping young minds as he was when he took the helm 26 years ago.
I’m one of those people who always thinks, ‘We can do this better – there’s more we can do and there are more opportunities we can give our students’.”
“It’s exciting to watch students grow and develop. We often talk about changes in society, and parents have changed, but children haven’t,” says Bruce.
“I look at our senior students growing up and think, ‘They are our future,’ and we have the opportunity to work with these students!
“If a child has a passion to do something – to be a doctor, a chef, to be whatever – then they can do that here and they can live out their dreams. And if we can help them on that journey, I think that’s an honour.”