Introducing Gemma Beekink, Dean of Year 8

Dean of Year 8 Gemma Beekink

In this article, Gemma Beekink discusses what motivated her to join Santa Maria College and take on the role of Head of Year 8. She also shares her vision for the year and her plans for contributing to the academic and personal development of her students.

What motivated you to join our school community and take on the role of Head of Year 8?

Joining Santa Maria College as Dean of Year 8 is not only a significant milestone but also a longstanding professional goal of mine. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to fulfill this aspiration and contribute to such a respected school community. Both my sister and mum are proud alumni, and hearing about the opportunities and sense of belonging my sister experienced during her time here, has deeply resonated with me. It’s clear that Santa Maria fosters a supportive and inclusive environment, which aligns perfectly with my own values as an educator. I’ve always admired the school’s commitment to helping students succeed in every aspect of their lives and successfully setting up young women for life beyond high school. Santa Maria is known for being a welcoming place where everyone feels supported, and that’s something I’m excited to be a part of. 

Can you share your vision for the Year 8 students and how you plan to contribute to their academic and personal development?

Our journey in Year 8 begins with a clear vision set during our first assembly. We are united in our commitment to embody the College value for 2024 – Hospitality – by actively practising kindness towards both others and ourselves in every interaction. I put out a weekly Hospitality Hotspot, which is a small but effective way in which we, as the Year 8 cohort can actively live out this value with a focus on what hospitality looks like, feels like, and sounds like. 

As a collective, we recognise the importance of nurturing and expanding our relationships with others. Transitioning from Year 7 brings with it new classes, new teachers, new classrooms, and new classmates, offering a wealth of opportunities to forge new connections, deepen friendships and engage in meaningful learning. We are committed to embracing these opportunities wholeheartedly, fostering a compassionate and inclusive community where everyone feels valued and included.

Academically, our focus is on developing the skills necessary to excel in learning. We place a strong emphasis on honing time management skills, empowering students to effectively balance their academic pursuits with other commitments. We encourage a spirit of curiosity and creativity, urging students to approach challenges with an open mind and a willingness to explore innovative solutions. Through this approach, we aim to cultivate not only academic resilience but also a lifelong love for learning.

How do you plan to foster a positive and inclusive environment for the girls in Year 8?

Creating a nurturing and inclusive environment for the girls in Year 8 is at the heart of my approach. I’m committed to establishing an open and welcoming space where students feel comfortable popping by, checking in, or seeking support whenever they need it. My hope is that the Year 8s will be able to feel comfortable and confident to freely express themselves and discuss any concerns or challenges they may be facing and be open to seek ways to best support their wellbeing. 

I firmly believe that building strong relationships based on trust and understanding is vital to fostering supportive wellbeing. Working alongside a talented, experienced, and vibrant Homeroom Team, we will collectively strive to cultivate an environment where every student feels valued, heard, supported, and championed. By providing a safe space for students to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, we aim to empower them to navigate the ups and downs of adolescence with confidence and resilience. I have referred to the Year 8 Homeroom team as ‘a home away from home’ and it is my hope that our Year 8s can work together to develop a sense of family and unity within their homerooms this year. 

I look forward to working with the Year 8 Student Leaders, as well as the Year 8 cohort to create experiences and activities that meet their needs. I am deeply committed to creating opportunities for meaningful connections and personal growth. Whether it’s through one-on-one conversations, group activities, or workshops, I am dedicated to providing tailored support that meets the diverse needs of our students. I am passionate about incorporating holistic wellbeing practices into daily routines, from mindfulness exercises to stress management techniques. We will work together to promote the importance of mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing students.  

Can you tell us about your experience in education prior to Santa Maria College?

Prior to joining Santa Maria College, I taught at Iona Presentation College for 11 years. There, I served as a founding House Coordinator and later progressed to the role of Head of Year for five years. My involvement extended across various co-curricular opportunities at the College, including sport, cultural activities, and the Arts, alongside organising and participating in educational tours to destinations like Canberra, Thailand, and Laos. Transitioning to Newman College in Churchlands, I assumed the position of Leader of Wellbeing for Years 10, 11, and 12 over the past four years. Throughout my career, I have taught across multiple departments, including Religious Education, Humanities, with a primary focus on Business Management and Enterprise and Pathways specialising in the UniReady Program. Additionally, I gained extensive experience in supporting students with diverse academic needs, including those requiring academic support and alternative pathway options such as VET and Endorsed Programs.

Having worked in schools that educate in both the Presentation and Marist charisms, I deeply understand the vital role charism plays in shaping the education and development of individuals into well-rounded individuals. I am eager to immerse myself in the Mercy charism and uphold the vision of the Mercy sisters, continuing their legacy of compassion, service, and empowerment. Drawing from my extensive experience in both wellbeing and teaching and learning, I am deeply committed to nurturing the holistic development of the students under my guidance.

What are your interests and hobbies outside work?

Outside of work, I find great happiness in spending quality time with my family and friends, especially my nephews. As a coffee and food enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoy exploring new cafes and restaurants, always keen to seek out the perfect tiramisu. Traveling is a big passion of mine, as I love immersing myself in different cultures and discovering new destinations. I had the opportunity to spend four incredible weeks in Europe last summer and look forward to more adventures in the future. This year, I’ve made a personal commitment to read more, and I’m proud to share that I’ve already finished two books during the summer holidays. In my free time, I often take leisurely walks along the river and listen to music (my house is rarely silent!) Since the easing of COVID restrictions, I’ve appreciated the chance to attend concerts and live music events—2023 brought memorable concert experiences by artists such as Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran, the 1975, and Calvin Harris, and I can’t wait to see Taylor Swift this year! As a dedicated member of the West Coast Eagles, I proudly support my team with unwavering loyalty and am at most home games. I have a particular interest in film and TV, especially enjoying reality TV and true crime documentaries.

What advice do you have for our students to ensure they get the most out of their time at Santa Maria College?

My advice is to seize every opportunity that comes your way. Whether it’s joining clubs, participating in sports, or engaging in community service projects, each experience will enrich your time here and contribute to your personal growth.

Prioritise building positive relationships with both your peers and teachers. These connections will not only enhance your school experience but also provide invaluable support and guidance along the way. And above all, remember to strive for personal excellence and always give your best effort in everything you do.

Don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself academically, socially, and personally. It’s through these experiences that you’ll discover your passions, develop your skills, and create lasting memories.

Remember to stay true to yourself and embrace your authentic self. Be open to new experiences and friendships, and don’t be afraid to embrace changes and challenges. These are essential to developing strong, courageous young people who are ready to make a positive impact in the world.

Lastly, always give back to the community that gives you so much. Whether it’s through your faith, volunteering, supporting your peers, or contributing to school initiatives, your actions can make a difference in the lives of those around you and contribute to a lasting legacy for future students at the College.  

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