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Spotlight on Staff: Cherie Boucher-Cunningham

A former ACG Strathallan student, Year 4 teacher Cherie Boucher-Cunningham played soccer in the boys’ first XI before ‘accidentally’ becoming a goalie for NZ. Now a teacher, her job, she says, is to make every student feel they belong.

What was the highlight of your time as a student at ACG Strathallan?
I loved the teachers – they were so kind and made you feel like you could be anything. I remember bringing my Mum and Dad in for interviews one year and just being so proud and excited to show them everything.

I played in the boys’ first XI soccer team, because we didn’t have a girls’ team back then. Something I will always remember is playing the teachers at football on Fridays after school. It was competitive and there were some brilliant tackles from both sides! It was something I would often tell people when they asked about my time at Strathallan.

What made you return to the school as a teacher?
I had such good memories and I wanted to be a part of creating those memories for more students. I also love the campus. It is such an amazing feeling to be able to work with so much space around you. I often take my classes out just to watch the water if they are feeling stressed or over-excited.

What makes a good teacher in your opinion?
You have to genuinely, crazily love what you do and be passionately curious.
Remember what it’s like to see the world as something to explore and invoke that in your lesson plans. Read books like you’re the only one in the room, with all the crazy voices and flailing arms. Apologise for your mistakes and show your class how to take risks. Be empathetic and remember that the small things are the big things – they matter. Be a champion for the kids who need it. A teacher who makes every kid feel like they belong.

What is the best part of the job?
That is difficult! I love that nothing is ever the same. You can spend hours on a lesson that doesn’t work like you thought it would, and you can have the best learning adventure from a passing comment you make when reading a story. I love reading the stories that my class write, or seeing them excited about something they are working on. I like how you are always learning – there are so many professional development opportunities in this field.

Tell us about your career as a soccer player
It was all very accidental. I went to trials because a friend was trialling. I made the top team for the grade, then the Federation team and the New Zealand age grade team. It was frustrating because it was my first season so there were so many basic skills I didn’t have. I was just quite good at keeping the ball out of the back of the net. My Dad reckons it’s because I had years of being told to stand in the goal while my brother practised shooting.

What are the best things about ACG Strathallan?
The teachers and the students. There is an amazingly warm and caring feel when you step on to the Strathallan campus. I was so excited when I interviewed for the teaching job that it felt as welcoming as I remembered. As a student, I loved how enthusiastic and knowledgeable the teachers were and, as a teacher, I am so grateful for the guidance that allows me to be just as passionate about my teaching.

What is something we might not know about you?
When I lived in Perth I played the drums in a band. I haven’t played properly for a few years now, but I love having the chance to pick up the sticks again when the primary Rock Band are practising.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love sports. I have recently retired from competitive soccer, but I’m still taking ballet lessons, playing tennis, doing crossfit, playing piano, and this year I am coaching a Strathallan/Waiau Pa Under-11 hockey team.

Any achievements or initiatives you’d like to share?
Last year we started a Senior Sports League for Years 5 and 6 in the primary school. It’s been amazing to watch