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Heights of Hope Snapshots of a school from its hesitant budding to exuberant blooming!

A brief history of B e l g r a ve H e i g h t s C h r i s t i a n S c h o o l 1983–2016

School logo 1983–2012

School logo 2012–current

© September, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-646-96069-2 Dewey Number: 371.0719451 Published by Belgrave Heights Christian School 20 Wattle Valley Rd, Belgrave Heights, VIC 3160 Copyright for this book belongs to the individual authors. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of study and research, criticism, review or as otherwise permitted under The Copyright Act, no text from this book may be reproduced without permission from individual authors and the images may not be reproduced without the permission of the publisher. All photographs are the property of Belgrave Heights Christian School, unless otherwise indicated. Cover and book design by Cameron Semmens:

Contents FOREWORD: A story worth telling

Andy Callow

INTRO: Stories to be carried forward

Cameron Semmens

The best and worst of times Warwick Davidson 14 An impossible mission Heather Nixon 16 Caught up in their joy Leanne Webster 18 I loved assemblies Danielle Burton 20 The whole school – in one car Lionel Holt 22 The old church building Jodie Davis 24 The highlight, the high point Ross Topham 26 Olympics and Smarties Leigh Murray 28 Car tyres and crazy colours Joy McGrath 30 Something for real! Sam Ford 32 All the thinks you can think! Annie McDowell 34 God, showing the way Adele Schultz 36 A touch of politics Andy Callow 38 Journey to Discovery Carolyn O’Brien 40 Even PE (at a pinch)! Lance Davidson 44 A place to flourish Ben White 46 Gumboots and muddy hands Adam Messenger 48 The fight of the jellyfish Anabel Kok 50 It just ‘felt right’ Liz Stewart 52 All other jobs needed! Juliette Krens 54 Starting high school and PBs Maximillian Ford 56 10,000 trees Angela Reiher 58

Who did their best? I did! Connor Lyons 60 The blessings of smallness Leanne Webster 62 You’re the chaplain!? Fist pump Nick Crawley 64 He said – she said Allen and Sherene Dickson 66 Even a sparrow Hannah Chhabra 68 We need a bigger staffroom Michelle Visser 70 Making an impact Azzan Schuster 72 Balloon rising Amanda Wight 74 Friendship spaces Jessica Donker 76 The school has blossomed Liz Linden 78 And the answer is? Allen Dickson 80 Goat-karting Andy Callow 82 The burning bush Darryl Thompson 84 A beautiful bridge Kathryn Donker 86 The colour of socks Joanne Boyd 88 From a little acorn Margaret Hulls 90 A grin and a wink Alex McQueen 92 My favourite of all Sarah Kelly 94 A helicopter – for show and tell Stephen Dunn 96 Life is complex Andy Callow 98 An extension of our family Beccy Burton 100 Falling into place Stephen Reiher 102 Draining the lake Ian Birchall 104 Of mice and men Jackie Eastwood 106 That little bit longer Nick Crawley 108 Only one thing matters Carolyn O’Brien 110 You name it, we sold it Margie Griffin 112 Just one more faith-step Jonathan Scampton 114 Very fond memories Liz Linden 116

Budgets, expenses and the true privilege Glenn Campbell 118 A giant burden lifted Michaela Valentine 120 Doing life together Natasha Eshuis 122 Revelling in a terrapin Jenny Simmons 124 To my amazement Wendy Probert 126 My grand vision Nowell Abraham 128 I’m going to be a dad! Rowan Jeffery 130 The prayer warriors Zayda Doidge 132 Where do I start? Clint Martin 134 I’m going to let God nag you! Jen Martin 136 Sometimes very challenging Barry Van Es 138 I owe a lot! Matthew Thiele 140 From grimy windows to new computers Caleb O’Brien 142 Hospitality – a core value Ken Greenwood 144 Billycarts and crazy names Vicky Fraanje 146 Something I’d been chasing Nicholas Burke 148 The old Art room was ‘interesting’! Leanne Saward 150 The day was a turning point Paul Eshuis 152 It remains a privilege Rob Nyhuis 154 The creation of Cluckingham Palace Colleen Peele 156 So many opportunities Lucy Johnson 158 This is straight from the building site Dan Veith 160 Groaning the extra mile Ivan Seskis 162 Cupcakes and a pineapple pen Michelle Farrand 164 A place of peace Stuart Johnston 166 Quite a few really good ones! Isaac Roberts 168 God does the heavy lifting Dirk Jackson 170 Don’t climb trees Andy Callow 172 The ordinary, day-to-day challenge Ivan Seskis 174

Is Christian education an oxymoron? Dave Hughes 176 Moustache and a black eye Steve Kelly 178 Even the smallest sprout is reaching for the sky Cameron Semmens 180 I would never miss this Yolanda Cox 182 In the end Adrien March 184


BHCS Total Enrolments 188 How This School Began: by Isabel Bell 190 In memoriam: for Isabel Bell 194

One of the many beautiful foggy Winter mornings at BHCS.


Tell me a story We all love stories. Summer nestles in on my lap and says, “Tell me a story granddad”. The whole class, faces expectant, look up from the mat as the Junior School teacher opens a favourite storybook. 8.30am and the school restaurant, full of BHCS staff, listen intently as a colleague shares a story from the heart about God at work in their lives. Later that morning, the same room resounds in the laughter of parents sharing coffee and a chat. All good teachers know that stories well-told are the most powerful teaching tool. They can penetrate deep into our memories, and easily carry layers of meaning that percolate through our brains over time, offering wisdom and insight to those who pay attention. The One this school is built upon is the Master Storyteller.


God talks to us in so many ways, through the work of His hands, including the stories of other people. When He became one of us and walked among us, He used unforgettable stories and parables to teach, warn and encourage. We love the stories about Him, such as the wonderful healings, miracles and acts of astonishing compassion and grace. We all love stories – especially those with a happy ending. This small book is a collection of stories where the common thread is a school community whose very existence itself is a story worth telling. – ANDY CALLOW –

BHCS Principal 2004–present



Stories to be carried forward Firstly, let me say what a delight it has been to be invited into this school as an artist. There are not many schools that would welcome a poet-in-residence into their midst, and give as much space and grace as I have received. I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to share my word-working and book-making skills with this unique school community. Secondly, it has been a privilege and a joy to bring all these stories together from such a wide variety of people across the history of this school. This book emerged as part of a project to capture the stories of this school before they were lost over time. Sarah Kelly oversaw the project as a whole and was invaluable in sourcing all the photos – a big job! Jono Callow managed the video component, interviewing people and pulling together beautiful and invaluable documentary footage; and I curated and designed this collection of memories. The aim for Heights of Hope has been to capture a whole variety of reflections and remembrances to share with future generations. This book is not aiming to be a comprehensive history; it is more a series of snapshots that hopefully give a sense of the heart of this school, the journey it has made, and the deeply personal stories that are actually the foundation of any ‘official’ history. This book is more than a stroll down memory lane; it is a gathering of a legacy that may be carried forward. And more than that, you may even see glints of the future in these nuggets from the past. – CAMERON SEMMENS –

BHCS poet-in-residence 2016. Curator and designer of Heights of Hope


From left, Jono Callow and Cameron Semmens. On right, Cameron performing for, and with, the students at the BHCS Easter Service 2016.



“I look to the hills! Where will I find help? It will come from the Lord, who created the heavens and the earth.� From the Book of Psalms, number 121, verses 1 and 2 in the Contemporary English Version.


The best and worst of times! “…’It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.’ So begins Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities. How is this possible? Well, it has certainly been true in our school’s story. In the mid 1990s the school experienced the worst of times. Shortly after the provision of a substantial portion of the buildings that comprise the Junior School, the student numbers fell from a healthy 45 to a very unhealthy 5. The loss of two or three families for various reasons produced a loss of confidence in the future. Imagine the distress of the School Council trying to come to terms with the fact that, as things stood, we could not continue to operate a school which we were convinced had been initiated by God. Furthermore, our liability for the government funding weighed upon us. But then, one evening, as I sat contemplating the closure of the school, the phone rang. The caller identified himself as the Chairman of a Christian school which was in the process of constructing a new campus not far from Belgrave Heights. He knew of our problem and proposed a solution which would benefit both schools, his school needing more space for a time. In short, the proposal provided us with two classes of students on loan for two years; breathing space that would give us the opportunity to re-grow our numbers, a situation from which we have never looked back. In the hands of God the worst of times can become the best of times; we see His love and His sovereign rule over our affairs.” – WARWICK DAVIDSON –

School Council member 1985–present. Council Chairman 1990–2016


From left, Warwick Davidson addressing the school. On right, with Isabel Bell, one of the founders of BHCS in 1997 (above) and 2014 (below).


An impossible mission “…often when I drive into BHCS I try and recall what the school looked like when I first started. It is really quite difficult as there have been enormous changes in that time. I look back and try to see it as it was and I realise that God saw it then as it was to become – as it is today and as it will be in the future. It was 1998 when I first taught here as the school’s first employed Library Teacher. There were three primary classes with about 65 students. If you had told me what the school was to become I would have thought it an impossible challenge. The driveway was not much more than a cow path back then. The car park, which was in the top primary level had a dip at the edge, and at one stage a car went too far over and we had to get a tow truck come to pull it back. After that, sleepers were put at the edge. Now the car park is multi-level and it’s sometimes hard to find a space. Back then there was always concern for enrolments to increase; now we have waiting lists. The school grounds have changed enormously. My husband and children used to come and pick blackberries here, and for many years we had goats tethered around the school to help keep the berries and weeds in check. Now we have lots of tree planting days. The Library was a small building shared with the Art teacher. It was cold, damp, cramped and crawling with silverfish! It’s hard to compare that with what we have today!


God told the children of Israel to remember where they had come from and where He had brought them to. They had come out of Egypt into the Promised Land. He told them to tell their children and leave markers for future generations, such as stones piled up after crossing the Jordan. Like the Israelites we need to recall where our school has come from and pass it on to new staff and parents, in order to better appreciate the miracles God has wrought over the years. There have been many enormous challenges, but we have an enormous God. So when I see new challenges I remember to look back and see that in the past, despite our difficulties, God has brought us through to a good place and that He is ever faithful.” – HEATHER NIXON –

Teacher/Librarian 1998–2016

On left, busy at work in the classroom 2001(above) and 2003 (below). On right, Joy McGrath (left) and Carolyn O’Brien (right).


Caught up in their joy! Excursions in the mid 90s: “…even leaving the school grounds was a major event with such a small school – excited children would file into the small minivan and our Principal, Mr Murray, would drive around and around the gumtree on the dusty driveway that served as a round-a-bout, honking on the horn while the children hung out of their windows waving furiously at the younger children congregated out the front to see them off. Dust would be flying and squeals of excitement rang out over the noise of the cockatoos as they headed off. You couldn’t help but get caught up in their joy!” – LEANNE WEBSTER –

Associated with BHCS for 21 years, on staff for 16 years, with her 3 children attending


Leanne at the end of the skipping rope in 1997. And below, children ready for an outing!


I loved assemblies “…back when I was in primary school I loved having assemblies. Thinking back now it’s crazy to think that we all used to fit in the old, tiny church building where assemblies would take place. We would all sit in our class groups, Early Primary on the floor and Upper Primary on the chairs. I just loved listening to the teachers share stories or announcements about school activities coming up. But my absolute favourite thing to do was to sing along to the school song. ‘Children arise and let us sing, we are the children of the King.’ I loved how our school created that song especially for BHCS and the message it sent to all the children. The message that we are all children of God and that we must try every day to be the best we can be. Now that our school has grown in number, and we can’t all fit in the old church anymore, I love that after all these years the Primary students still sing the school song and the message has not been lost over time.” – DANIELLE BURTON –

Student from Prep to Year 12, finishing in 2016


Children Arise and Let Us Sing

The BHCS School Song

Ch: Children arise and let us sing We are the children of the King We will do our best each day Following God’s way We will love and obey the Lord V1: Sharing, having fun together Honouring teachers and the Lord Loving, caring for each other We will love and obey the Lord

V2: Serving, helping one another Being always kind and true Knowing everyone is special We will love and obey the Lord


Top, Lionel’s wife and daughter. Below, Lionel playing instruments and with Andy Callow (centre).


The whole school – in one car “…it’s 1993 – imagine a silver Tarago with burgundy velour interior, one teacher, one parent helper and five students – part of a tiny, but faithful, school community with wonderful facilities (the new brick building), off to enjoy a day at Healesville Sanctuary. ‘Good morning Jessica, Leanne, Tom, Luke, Hannah and Mr Holt’, said the teacher.
 ‘Good morning, Miss Hulls’, we all sang back.
 All the school children and their teacher in one car. At the sanctuary we patted a wombat, drew pictures of ibises, heard dingoes howl and enjoyed our lunch. A good day all dressed in the blue Belgrave Heights Christian School uniform. That was one week, full stop, capital letter. A chapter in the school’s life closed.
 The next week another faithful school community, with many children, and few facilities arrived. Our school – a place to learn, grow and play. The uniform was now green. In this chapter BHCS began to grow.” – LIONEL HOLT –

Involved at BHCS from 1993–2009


The old church building “…watching the school grow has in many ways been a journey of watching my children grow. Some of my fondest memories have been watching assemblies run by the primary students. We became part of the school community in 2006 and each week the students would walk down to the old church for assembly run by one of the classes. Back then, the whole primary school, staff and parents would fit into this little building. It was hot in summer and freezing in winter. Through the mud they would traipse into the old church building, taking off their shoes and leaving them on the veranda. Arriving late you would see a couple of hundred shoes lined up around the outside. It would always amaze me how a student managed to return home at the end of the day with the correct shoes. Inside the old building, with rows of chairs for the older students and the younger ones on the floor, we would all sing the school song as Madame McGrath played the tune on the organ, followed by the National Anthem and then announcements. It was always exciting to be the student who, along with Mr Callow, got to shake the hands of students who got awards. For the parents, a moment of either pride or anguish would arise as the class of the week performed their play or song. Would stage fright take over? Would the students remember the lines they’d practised all week? These plays were often the highlight of the term as each member of the class got a moment to shine. After assembly the children would then stand quietly (mostly), waiting for their turn to find their shoes and head back to their class, clasping the much treasured award, singing the school song or chattering about the play performed.


As so often happens, change had to come. It was time the church was moved to make way for a new library. With a final goodbye at a last assembly, the doors were locked. On the day the church was moved the whole school came out to watch, sitting on the hill looking on as the wheels were put under the building and it was jacked up. We all watched with bated breath as the church move began. Loaded onto a truck it slowly began to move bit by bit. There it was, with all the chairs in place, the toys the little kids played with still visible in the window, balanced precariously on the truck. As it finally started to move it gave a wobble. We gasped. Would the building make it out of the hole and across the car park or was it going to fall off the truck? With a wave we said goodbye and back to class. Assemblies then moved to the M Rooms and another chapter began.” – JODIE DAVIS –

Parent 2006–present. Registrar 2009–present


The whole staff in 2009, and below, Ross Topham.


The highlight, the high point “…first impressions: have I walked into a Mark Twain novel? All these Year 7 Huckleberry Finns, building forts on gravel heaps and dirt mounds, waving sticks, hiding behind trees, these mini-tribes to the rear of what was then the ‘Tech Centre’: one Art Room, one Woodwork Room, and one Computer Lab! My preconception of the ‘Puffing Billy’ Dandenongs had been of tree-hugging remnant hippies and it soon became clear I was half-right: the ‘hugging’ part of the picture that is, for I had never been in such a ‘huggy’ school as this – from students like Jake Kidd and Ollie Green, to fellow teachers like John Bradfield, and that big Canadian bear Mike Peele. By the end of my 4 years at BHCS, I had realised that these hugs were genuine, that the school under the wise, whimsical, and God-blessed nurture of Andy Callow, was indeed a place that lived and breathed Christian love. Not that one special colleague with whom I shared a staffroom from the start – John Bradfield – would ever let me forget the shared fellowship of our loving Saviour. For John could not pass by my desk without planting an affectionate kiss on my bald spot! John possessed a breadth of knowledge, an insatiable curiosity, a soul that hungered for God, and an appetite that fed on the most amazing array of oil-soaked, batter-coated, soft drink softened ‘snacks’ that I had ever seen consumed in an educational setting. Like all who knew John, I still miss him now, and I cannot help but think that Heaven must be ever the richer for his presence. BHCS, simply, was the highlight, the Dandenongs’ high point, of my teaching career.” – ROSS TOPHAM (‘Toppy’) –

VCE and English Coordinator 2008–2012


Olympics and Smarties! “…back in 2000, Olympics Day was memorable! Allen Crawley, an Australian Olympian at Mexico City competing in the long jump and relay, was our guest. Allen was invited to carry the torch in the relay through the streets of Melbourne, on its journey to Sydney where the Games were to be held. He brought the torch with him and every child got to hold it and had their photo taken with him. Following our assembly, where Allen spoke, events were held in true Olympic spirit and Allen enjoyed the day so much that he stayed until well after the school bell had rung to go home. School days are often boring, even though learning takes place continually, but it is the special events that remain in the children’s minds… like Smarties Day in 2002, when all the classes, including the staff, drew a colour out of a hat to wear on a special day, where the students had to bring a gold coin to wear their designated colour. In the draw for colours up to Year 8, the last colour left was for the staff and it was pink!! Fun, fun, fun!! Morning line up was amazing with laughter, as we all took part in the right spirit and it was an unforgettable day. From the mid 1990s, when Belgrave Heights Christian School had a total attendance in single figures, God has provided faithful people who have supported the school in one way or another – whether they were serving on the School Board, on the teaching staff or just interested friends or parents, who wanted a truly Christian education for the most important people, their children. History will show that the integral role played by these faithful people led BHCS to be the respected school that it is today.” – LEIGH MURRAY – Principal 1997–2003



Car tyres and crazy colours “…during my time here, huge tracts of blackberries and onion grass have been removed. When we began the process of cleaning up the Monbulk Creek, we removed rusted shopping trolleys, paint cans, car tyres, plastics of all kinds and cast off wire… to know that platypuses are now returning to ‘our’ creek, is enormously satisfying when you have witnessed how polluted it was before. BHCS has always taken seriously our Biblical mandate to be good stewards of the land. My time at Belgrave Heights Christian School began in September 1998. Back then there were just over 70 students enrolled in the school ranging from Prep to Year 6. Our building was confined to the present Year 1/2 classrooms, the staff office space and staff room, plus a portable building and a dilapidated old camp building where the paved car park is now. For assemblies, we used the Presbyterian Church building which was also on-site. There were two part-time administrative staff, three full-time teachers and part-time specialists for Library, Art, PE, French and Music. We didn’t have much of a budget for sorting out IT issues, so any computer support we received had to come from volunteer parents on Working Bee days or sometimes from a couple of students who knew a little more about computer mechanics than we did! Nowadays, I am just so grateful for the IT staff we are blessed with here at BHCS, whose contribution means our programs run smoothly, easing stress on teachers. In order to make our presence felt in the community, a group of students (in particular ones from the very talented Birchall and Holt families) would go into Belgrave or Tecoma and busk on a Saturday morning wearing brightly coloured handmade vests. They certainly received attention! From these humble beginnings, I look at the amazing student productions now with considerable pride. 30

Looking back, it is abundantly clear that God has faithfully guided and blessed our school. Our fervent prayers when the census numbers were tight and when negotiations for buying the land were frustrating and prolonged, all have been answered in His perfect timing. Blessed be the Lord.” – JOY MCGRATH –

On staff at BHCS from 1998–present


On right, Sam. Above and left, Sam with his classmates.


Something for real! “…it was only a few months after I started at BHCS in Year 7, Mrs Szalay, our Science teacher, was demonstrating centrifuging for the class. Centrifuging is a way to separate components of a mixture by rotating a container quickly. Mrs Szalay had a large bucket half filled with water, which she began to swing in vertical circles, getting faster as the bucket came around each time. No water was coming out of the bucket because of its speed, and the class saw how centrifuging worked. But then something happened completely out of the blue, that would brighten up the mood in my class for the rest of the school day. On the last swing, Mrs Szalay swung a bit too high, and the bucket struck one of the lights on the ceiling. The light smashed and the bucket fell to the ground, splashing its contents all over and around Mrs Szalay on its way down. Everyone in the classroom looked at the broken light, the water on the floor, and the bucket. There was silence for a moment, as we didn’t know how Mrs Szalay would react. And then, as though someone had organised it, everyone started laughing together, including Mrs Szalay. I liked that our teacher was demonstrating something for real; we were not just reading about it in a book. I also liked that when something unexpected happened, it was okay and we could all see the funny side, especially ‘wet Mrs Szalay’.” – SAM FORD – Student 2016


All the thinks you can think! “…as the prelude music began swirling around the audience sitting in the brand new seats of Burrinja Theatre, nervous excitement generated in the wings as students involved in BHCS’s first full-scale musical, Seussical, waited for the curtain call. We were only the second school to use the theatre back in 2011, and looking around backstage, I could see the months of hard work, passion, dedication and talent culminating towards this moment – opening night! Students dressed in all manner of Dr Seuss characters: The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Whos, Mayzie la Bird, Gertrude, Jojo, gathered in anticipation of their moment on stage and the opening number, All the thinks you can think!


Opening night, and our whole first season, was a huge success. With a 17 piece orchestra, 85 student cast from Years 4–12 and three sold out audiences, the feedback from our community raved about the talent and quality of our first musical. Yet, even more important than the fantastic final product, was the journey students undertook in the process of creating the show together. Relationships were formed, positive risks were taken and laughter was shared as students and teachers simply enjoyed the process of rehearsing together, supporting one another and presenting their hard work to their family and friends. I was so proud of all that we had achieved together and thankful to work as part of a school that allows teachers to follow their own passions, take a risk and be left with an experience that will, hopefully, become a formative memory for students to draw on for years to come.” – ANNIE MCDOWELL –

English and Drama teacher & Production Coordinator, 2010–present


Adele and family.


God, showing the way “…our family immigrated from South Africa, and like many other migrants we faced a few challenges. As Christians we often say we believe in God, but we rarely ask ourselves the question: Do I really trust God? Well, in the last few years I have learnt to trust God. We were going through a particularly rough patch that had really affected our middle child, and the search for a Secondary school had been stressful. He really struggled in the non-Christian school environment. Before driving to school one day I sat praying in the car, asking for guidance, praying that God would lead me to the right decision for our son. He desperately needed to settle and start building his new life in Australia. We didn’t get far from home when along came the BHCS bus, with signage promoting the Open Day at school. I was overcome with emotion, tears streaming down my face. There it was – not a subtle sign, no silent nudge, no – loud and clear – God was talking to me, showing me the way, and the way was BHCS. When I contacted the school I was told there would probably not be a spot for Radley the following year, but we were welcome to attend the Open Day. There was no way to explain the message God had given me, but I knew BHCS was where He wanted us to be. It has been a few years since then and our son did get a position at the school. Most mornings as I drive into school I still thank God for making this possible, and teaching us the value of trust.” – ADELE SCHULTZ – Parent 2013–present


A touch of politics “…we are so blessed to live in Australia. There are so many things to be grateful for here that we must never take for granted. Many people in the world envy our open democracy, and the freedom we have to criticise our leaders! I have talked with many politicians, and have discovered that the majority of them originally entered politics desiring to make a positive difference. Christian Schools in our country have flourished due to the sacrificial service of our pioneers. This in turn has been generously supported by the government funding available to all independent schools. At BHCS we have engaged positively with all of our local, federal and state politicians, and have particularly appreciated having Jason Wood as a frequent visitor to school events. I especially remember in 2006 when he brought Julie Bishop to visit us making us the first Christian School in Australia that had hosted the then Federal Minister of Education. One of those special moments that make it such a privilege to be the School Principal was in 2014 when Jason’s office rang to alert me to the news that BHCS had been highlighted in a recent speech he had given in Parliament House, Canberra. It concluded with the following statement: When I first went on a tour of the school many years ago, I described it as the hidden gem of the hills. Not many people knew about it and it was regarded as something of a myth, but those days are long gone and everyone now knows about this fantastic school, which has gone from strength to strength. It seems to me that in everything the school does it puts the students first. Staff, parents and the entire Belgrave Heights school community – past and present – all share the same vision and, with their strong faith, have created one of the best schools not only in the state, but in Australia.” – ANDY CALLOW –

Principal 2004–present


Some of the politicans who have visited BHCS: Tim Heenan, Samantha Dunn, Julie Bishop, John Howard, James Merlino, Laura Smyth, Brad Battin, Jason Wood and David Hawker.


Journey to Discovery “...once upon a time there was a little school hidden away in the valley of wattle trees. The school was very young, as were the handful of students who gathered in the old buildings scattered amongst the blackberries – remnants of an old church camp, quietly decaying in the Belgrave rain. The librarian remembers frosty Dandenongs mornings where the ‘library’ was colder inside than out, and where condensation dripped from the ceiling onto the children sitting on threadbare carpet. Luxury! It was a combined Library/Art Room (think about that!) and silverfish were a big problem. There wasn’t a single silverfish in the old library, they were all married, with thousands and thousands of children! Money was very tight, so Mrs Nixon, librarian extraordinaire, would scour the local op-shops and garage sales to hunt down cheap books. However, the students, like all children, enjoyed listening to stories read by their teacher. In 4th term 2000 the big move was made to a room in the Primary building. Mrs Nixon remembers a small miracle of that time, ‘We moved all the books, card system and library stationery supplies. I prayed that we would not have silverfish in the new library. Note that in all the years we were in this room I did not see one silverfish.’ Primary students enjoyed having closer access to the Storybook Room – but some years not even one book was borrowed by secondary students (as recorded on the antiquated card system). They made more use of the handful of old donated computers along the wall. These even worked some of the time!


In 2009 there were great celebrations as students had access to the first purpose built library – The Discovery Centre. The grandiose new name was chosen to indicate that this involved more than books. Brand new computers provided the attraction for all students to be drawn to the new heart of our school. The Interactive White Board and the computerised library system demonstrated that a new era had arrived. Stunning views, room to move, new furniture, books and games completed the picture. Increased staffing meant that the Discovery Centre could be open every lunch-time (if you could find room to sit!). However, continued strong growth in student numbers meant that the Discovery Centre soon became unviable. When the redesign of the Discovery Centre began, a call for help was amplified across the school grounds, and in all the classrooms: “If anyone can assist, please come to the Discovery Centre immediately!” A huge stack of books, furniture and shelving that occupied a full third of the Discovery Centre had to be moved and sorted so that it would be ready for the start of the school year. And it had to be done right away! The response astonished the waiting team of carpet layers. Willing workers came from all directions including teachers, support staff, and other volunteers. Even our school architect (who was here for a business meeting) joined in with gusto. In a remarkably short time it was done, and with such good grace! It was an eloquent expression of so much that is special about this school community. The remodelled Discovery Centre has now tripled in size, and has so much more to offer. Enthusiastic research, including a highly significant visit to Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney, created a strong desire to create a ‘library’ that championed 21st century learning. It’s more than a traditional library


because it offers other than books: a technology rich environment with smart TVs; iMacs; iPads and laptops. Students can use such resources in VCE media studies, animation and robotics electives... and much more besides. The design brief was for flexible spaces, movable furniture and visually engaging learning areas for students of all ages. Books are still important! Talk to our DC staff about how book borrowing has tripled (and how recycled Borders furniture has played a part in this). The story of our journey to discovery is also a picture of the growth and development of BHCS as a whole.” – CAROLYN O’BRIEN –

and Parent 1999–2016 Admin. assistant 2006–2011 Discovery Centre Assistant 2010–2016


– ANDY CALLOW – Principal 2004–present



Even PE – at a pinch! “…I remember the beginning of the secondary school at BHCS, when there were classes of thirteen and fourteen at Years 7 and 8. We held classes in the hall of the local Presbyterian Church (this church was and still is based on the school site). The hall had a larger room with couches around the outside, and was plenty big enough to teach anything from Maths to Drama to even PE – at a pinch! It had another smaller room just off to the side that included a small kitchen and this also served as a classroom in those early days, although you did need to be careful not to poke someone in the eye as you swung around from the whiteboard with a marker in your hand. There was a portable classroom that was on its last legs, and I remember in the year prior to it being torn down, I had my Year 9 home room in there. We allowed the students to paint a mural across the back wall of the room and sign their names on the back of the door. This was all prior to the construction of a brand new building that would take the school into the 21st century.” – LANCE DAVIDSON –

Deputy Principal, PE Teacher from 2003–present. Parent of 4 students at the school


A place to flourish “…on a bus early in the morning, my brother and I were bound for a new school. In 1995 we were enrolled to attend Hillcrest Christian College; however, the building schedule was behind and not ready for its first budding cohort of students. Instead we arrived in the hills of Belgrave Heights to the sound of birds singing and cicadas buzzing. We entered a small building at the top of the hill and then into the classroom, greeted by 5 BHCS students of varying ages. We didn’t realise at the time, but this was the whole school! My teacher, Mrs Jeanine Bosch, introduced herself, and to this day, Years 3 and 4 are still some of my fondest memories – from running the fire track, collecting Cicada shells and playing ‘Jack in the pack’ on the hillside, to competing in times-table games and having school sleepovers. Although I only attended BHCS for 2 years, this was a place of flourishing for me and I still remain close friends with a handful of the Year 3 class of 1995. In 2005, I made a return to BHCS. After graduating from Maranatha, I became an intern at my church and got involved with outreach including running a lunchtime program with students, and getting involved with Lance Davidson’s Wednesday sport class after the break. We would play games, build relationships and enjoy time with both staff and students. The school had developed and grown in those 10 years, however, it remained a small community. 2011 would hold a piece of history for me, although I was not aware of this fact. I would become the first ex-student to become part of the teaching staff at Belgrave Heights Christian School. At key moments in my life, it seems BHCS has been a place for me to flourish, and I guess you could say that this little school in the hills has been, and will continue to be, a large part of my journey.” – BEN WHITE –

Former Student 1995–1996. English Humanities Teacher from 2011–present


Top far left, Ben in 2016. Below, in yellow t-shirt in 1996.



Gumboots and muddy hands “…tree planting down by the creek has always been a huge part of the BHCS calendar and one of my favourite school activities. A focus on the environment is one of the hallmarks of our school, and although the addition of new trees and grasses is important, I think I more enjoy seeing the interaction between students helping out on the day. Little Year 2 students working alongside towering Year 9s. A girl in Year 11 passing a plant to a Year 5 boy. I firmly believe that the more a school can bring students of different ages together for a purpose, the better. Schools are funny places where we ‘collect’ people of the same age and place them in rooms together (sorry, that made the task of education just seem weird!) – but when else in life (work, home, society) do we see this take place? By having opportunities for students to mix and enjoy the company of those who are ‘different’ to them, and providing them with something useful to do – we are setting them up to be relatable people with a focus on contribution. As a school we do this well, and in other ways too – school musicals, Maths/Science Night and ItzAAAFest. But getting outside amongst nature to see a Year 8 boy cringe while gingerly holding a stake in the ground as a Prep student lifts a hammer to attempt to whack it in – priceless!” – ADAM MESSENGER –

School parent. Teacher and Head of Middle School 2012–present


The fight of the jellyfish! “…jellyfish seemed to be a common theme this week, everywhere I turned they covered the floor like translucent pancakes and filled the water like floating marshmallows. Usually ocean dwelling creatures such as jellyfish don’t present themselves in life, other than maybe the occasional display through the thick glass of an aquarium. Not this week though; this week was camp and camp was never normal. A trip over the looking glass lake ended at what seemed to be an average beach with not much more than a pier and a lot of sand. I was very, very wrong. I mean, I wasn’t wrong about thinking it was just a plain beach, it was. The thought we’d just be having a bit of a picnic and heading straight back for camp was what I was wrong about. After hopping off the boat it became clear that something was different about this beach; sand-covered jellyfish dotted it, enticing adolescents, as if they were yelling ‘Throw me!” I’m not sure who threw the first one, but before long jellyfish were flying through the air like missiles. Shrieks of disgust and excitement rang in my ears as I was hit with the salty goop. Kids joined the crabs in darting across the sand, ducking and diving as soon as jelly was launched in their direction. This was a war as action packed as those in Marvel movies, and it will be forever remembered as the fight of the jellyfish.” – ANABEL KOK –

Student 2015–present



Margie Griffin on left. Liz Stewart with her son Jayden Stewart (2006).


It just ‘felt right’ “…the first time I visited BHCS was during an Open Day in the year 2000. We were looking for a school for my oldest son who was to start Prep the following year. BHCS was very small, with around 80 students from Prep to Year 6. We walked through the school which consisted of just a few classrooms and recall that it just ‘felt right’. The staff and parents were so friendly and we left Open Day feeling assured that the choice to send our children to BHCS was the right one. The next year Brad started Prep in Ms Hull’s class with a group of 14 students. Each day commenced with a morning assembly. The whole school would gather under the Primary undercover area on hearing the hand-held bell which one of the teachers would ring while walking around the yard. It was there that the Principal, Mr Murray, would inform everyone of any announcements and commence the day in prayer. The following year a receptionist position was advertised. I applied and started working in the office. 15 years later, my two sons, Brad and Jay have both completed their schooling while I continue working in the office. I feel so blessed to have seen the growth in student numbers (now around 700), staff numbers (now around 100) and the developments to the school. But most of all, I am blessed to work at a great place with fantastic people.” – LIZ STEWART –

Parent, 2001 to 2015. Assistant Business Manager 2002–present


All other jobs as needed! “…when I signed my contract (in about 2004) it had a clause which read, ‘and all other jobs as needed’. Little did I know what that would entail! I didn’t realise it meant that one day I would be clambering down a muddy hill with the Principal, all in the aid of taking a photo of the school’s goat stranded on an island in the middle of a creek. Did I say school’s goat? Yes, I did. The school had two goats and apparently the stranded goat would make a good photo for the newsletter. Did I also tell you the Principal was dressed in overalls and a pair of gumboots? Not your normal Principal’s attire, but those early days called for a lot of us to be hands on. As we clambered down the hill, the mud grabbed hold of my shoe and sucked it off my foot almost causing me to fall. I grabbed my boss’s hand before I went face first into the mud. Balancing awkwardly I wrangled my shoe back on and yanked it from the mud. Together we clambered back up the hill and I was thankful that there wasn’t anyone with a video camera around. Just one of those average days back then really.” – JULIETTE KRENS –

Associated with BHCS for 18 years, on staff for 12 years, with her two children attending


Juliette (bottom, left and middle). Above, Juliette’s children with their grand-dad.


On left, the first day of Year 7. On right, Max (below) and with a friend (above).


Starting high school and personal bests “…when I first started Year 7 at BHCS, I found it a challenge to suddenly have such a variety of subjects, so many different teachers, so many different class locations, with so many new faces. I think a few people feel this way when they start Secondary School. One thing that helped me adjust was the Personal Best (PB) project, as it provided the opportunity to focus purely on something that I enjoyed, which happened to be, in my case, AFL. I love footy because of its excitement, its free flowing nature (if the umpires are in the mood for it) and simply because it’s so enjoyable to play and watch. The PB project helped me to settle in more smoothly. The PB showcase in Term 3 lived up to its name. It revealed people’s personal lives outside of school, their passions, and boy was there diversity! Interests far and wide were unveiled, from bone collecting to world travels to Pac-man, and everything in between. Kids and parents alike were amazed by the quirkiness and originality of the projects. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about each other – the funny things, the impressive things and the downright weird things. PB really demonstrated the vast diversity of students at the school.” – MAXIMILLIAN FORD – Student 2015–present


10,000 trees “…I have just loved seeing the entire school get out and get dirty hands planting trees! We’ve planted well over 10,000 plants since I started at the school in 2004. My personal favourite memory is my own sons competing to outdo each other with Silas winning, having planted 75 trees in one day in Year 7. I love trees, so I LOVE that as an entire school we have planted so many and that we are so mindful of our environment and instilling this in our students.” – ANGELA REIHER –

Teacher and iTzAAAfest founder & Co-ordinator, 2008–present



Who did their best? I did! “…I remember the day I couldn’t walk. I remember the day I couldn’t participate. I remember the day I couldn’t play the sport I love. When I injured myself it felt like the world had finished. All the sports that I signed up for, the camp that I was looking forward to, the fun I was going to have, were not going to happen. But still, I fought on. The support I had was great. The people that included me and helped me carry my books were very caring. And I soon realised that there was one person that would always be there for me – God. When I did get injured I was thinking that I may never make a full recovery. I couldn’t picture myself running and playing soccer like I always had. Now, looking back, I think I was actually very brave, and that I actually did a great job keeping up with all the things around me, because: Who needed crutches on the third day of high school? I did. Who hiked up a sand dune in crutches? I did. Who went on a school camp with crutches? I did. Who missed out on trying out for sports? I did. Who made a full recovery with the help of many? I did. I remember the day I could walk again. I remember the day I could participate again. I remember the day I could play the sport I love again. That was my favourite day.” – CONNOR LYONS – Year 7 Student 2016



Leanne with her daughters, Ellery and Eilish, young, and then all grown up.


The blessings of smallness “…we were so blessed to be a part of a small (even tiny) school in the early years. Today the children here are blessed with comfortable, modern buildings and everything at their fingertips… but I feel we were the lucky ones. Our skeletal sports team would religiously rock up to Maryborough for the sports carnival against those HUGE schools, such as Maranatha, Hillcrest and Chairo. We would sleep on the floor in the sweltering heat of a local church outbuilding or hall for the night. Unlike the soaring temperature of inland Victoria, the swimming pool would be lucky to reach 1 degree. Our 12 or so children would compete in every event possible, just to give our school a score, or to put us on the map so to speak! Eilish, my youngest daughter hadn’t even started school yet when Leigh Murray plucked her from the side lines and entered her in some events to make up the numbers. I think if I could have passed her off as a boy, he would have entered her in the boys’ events too. Through the 21 year association with this school I believe God has sent the cream of the crop here and He still continues to bless us richly. It truly is an amazing place.” – LEANNE WEBSTER –

Associated with BHCS for 21 years, on staff for 16 years, with her 3 kids attending


You’re the chaplain!? – Fist pump “‘…you’re the Chaplain!? Whoa… you weren’t what I expected!’ (I quietly give a victorious fist pump). I’ve encountered this reception on a number of occasions, and in no way is it about me, rather it’s a vote of confidence in the freedom that I have been given to work out my role at BHCS. If me being a fool helps a student to feel comfortable – fist pump. If me being a fool eases tension in a moment – fist pump. If me being a fool opens the way for a friendship to be forged – fist pump. If a foolish moment connects a memory with a message to the inner workings of one’s being – fist pump. Dressing up, singing songs – it’s not the only way, but it is one way. Gossip was ravaging a year level, so a moment for a fool was nigh. 200+ students sat and watched as the chaplain twisted words and made up stories that resulted in Mr Callow being pregnant, Mr Wanders having a drinking problem and a host of other mistruths to engage the gathered throng. However, as the message was unpacked, each and every one left knowing – gossip is a destructive path. Still today the cry of Gooooooossip is echoed back when one has overstepped the mark. The foolish confounding the wise.” – NICK CRAWLEY –

Parent 2009–present, Chaplain 2011–present, Defender of the Universe–always



He said – she said He said: “Armed with a pirate hook, DIY kite kit or Groucho Marx glasses, each Friday I would arrive at BHCS to teach the Year 9 Program. Coincidentally, Friday was also the day when teachers would unwind after school with a small afternoon tea. The staffroom – quickly becoming too small for the number of staff – would be a blancmange of conversation, muffins, giggles, beetroot dip and chicken-ina-biscuit. Eventually the room would empty. I was often one of the last to leave and one sparkling young teacher would also inevitably be dragging her heels. Sherene and I would clean up the plates, talk and cautiously sound one another out. I think she liked me.” She said: “Seriously, didn’t Allen have a home to go to?” He said: “Sherene had completed training in EMU (Extending Mathematical Understanding) and I was getting more involved in teaching Gifted and Talented programs. Whenever I needed a good Maths activity, I would drop by her classroom and quiz her on fractions, pattern recognition or making Maths ‘hands on’.” She said: “He started to hang around my classroom… a lot.” He said: “A number of the staff organised to go to the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens. I brought a blanket and some Turkish Delight. Sherene shared both.” She said: “It was cold and he had chocolate.” He said: “We started dating – a movie, Nando’s, chips on the beach – and each Friday we would smile across staff devotions or sit next to each other at lunch. Helping each other write reports, organising assemblies, taking her class while she worked with small groups making chocolate Father’s Day gifts… School became part of the architecture as we drafted a future together.” She said: “Seriously – he organised my assemblies. Bonus!”


He said: “A proposal in a hot-air balloon. A wedding. A first child. Then another. Then another. And BHCS has been a constant thread through it all.” She said: “I loved teaching my classes. I loved being with teachers who were friends as well as colleagues. But I love being a wife and mum more. I know that seasons change and that one day I will be back at Belgrave in front of small and expectant faces – my own children amongst them. They were enrolled before they could walk.” He said: “From Tim Tams and Turkish Delight to wedding rings, maternity clothes and Pull-Ups, school has been (and continues to be) one of the protons that spin around our nuclear family. I can’t help but think that this might have been part of the BHCS plan all along… what a subtle but amazing way to increase enrolments.” – ALLEN and SHERENE DICKSON –

Allen – Enrichment & Curriculum Co-ordinator 2010–present Sherene – Primary Teacher & Educational Support Coordinator 2004–2013


Top, Hannah with her classmates. Bottom left, Hannah is second from the right.


Even a sparrow “...mum and dad were struggling to think of where they would send me for high school, as both my older brothers didn’t recommend the school they were attending. At that time my mum was part of a ladies’ Bible study where they were learning about hearing God’s voice. After my mum had a chat with one of her friends from church, whose daughter was attending the school, and after talking with dad, she sent for a prospectus. Mum’s heart was jumping as she read it, dad was the same and told mum to ring up to arrange a tour of the school. As mum, dad, Mr Murray (the Principal) and I walked around we came to the undercover area where Mr Murray told us to excuse the birds’ mess, as they had a swallow that came back every year to nest. That night mum was sitting doing her Bible study when she felt God telling her to turn to Psalm 84:3: Even a sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself… Mum was like, God are you talking to me??? Mum and dad were talking and trying to work out a way that they could afford for me to go to a private school. Mum and dad were told that God had a plan and if this is what He had planned for me He would make it happen financially! A few days later dad came in the door laughing and told mum that his work was changing the way their shifts rotated and now dad would be making more money!!! And that was the start to the most incredible journey!!” – HANNAH CHHABRA (KILNER) –

School Captain 2007 and 2008. Started year 7 in 2007 and graduated year 12 in 2008


We need a bigger staff room! “…when I first started in 2002, every morning, while the Admin staff manned Reception, the teaching staff would meet for staff briefing and devotions, similar to what we still do today. Back then we would take turns reading from a small devotion book and record our prayers in a small exercise book so we could look back and see how God had heard us. We also prayed for two school families every day from our enrolment list. We met in the staffroom, which is still the same one in use in our Primary school. When we were all working, there would be eleven of us around the table. We also took turns in bringing a cake to share for morning tea. This cake would sit on the staff table and usually lasted most of the week. My favourite was Margaret Hulls’ lumberjack cake – what a winner! In 2002, the entire BHCS staff numbered fourteen: ten teachers and four support staff. Every year close to census date we would pray in earnest that we would get just one or two more students to get us over the next funding line. Each new year brought a new classroom of students and each new term would bring at least one new enrolment. As a result our staff numbers grew. In a few short years it was standing room only in that little staffroom and it became a ‘standing’ joke that each time we all met we would complain to Leigh or Andy, ‘We need a new staffroom!’. We knew that in time we would have an amazing new staffroom in the planned Admin building. Finally we moved into our beautiful new facility, but in a short time, we were once again bursting at the seams. The old cry was reignited and once again you could hear someone smilingly moan, ‘Andy, we need a new staffroom!’. This year we moved into another beautiful new facility and even though the little old exercise book is long gone it isn’t hard to remember our prayers and see how God has blessed us beyond our dreams. This year I counted 110 staff in our school photo, and we don’t all fit in our new staff room!” – MICHELLE VISSER –

Integration Aide. Senior Ed Support coordinator and Careers coordinator, 2002–present



Making an impact “…currently I am in my second year of a Bachelor of Education (Primary). My interest in studying teaching has come off the back of having a really good schooling life when I was at BHCS. Within the last two or so years of schooling, being unsure of what I wanted to do while edging up to the end of school forever, it became pretty clear that one day I’d want to be back in the classroom again. I’d want to be making an impact on the kids of our future, the same way Belgrave Heights had made an impact on me (and who knows, maybe making it back to BHCS, if it was God’s plan!). There have legitimately been too many school memories to pinpoint just one to share with you. But I’ll walk down memory lane: playing Word Rescue on the old Macintosh computers in Prep with Miss Hulls; Messy Maths and McGregor Money with Mrs McGregor in Year 2; watching Madeline and Le Club in French with Mme McGrath; being Year 6 School Captain in 2008; every single school camp; Science Club with Mrs Eastwood; the early hours/late nights in the catering team with Mr Abraham; Mr Thompson giving me permission to spend many recesses/ lunchtimes in the recording studio playing music/editing videos throughout high school (and even still helping me out borrowing equipment for uni assignments); playing in the orchestra for the school musicals; Year 9 Program; doing Vetamorphus with Mr Jeffery (Jeffers) and having the opportunity to do a missions trip to Fiji; getting involved in the worship band with Mr White; Mr Seskis’ forearms during Maths in VCE; watching Mrs McDowell and Mrs Fatur get extremely passionate about English texts; the many volleyball games and PE camps with Mr Kelly; and Nick Crawley’s hilarious yet captivating talks at assemblies. And the cherry on the cake? Having our Year 12 Celebration Day video go viral to end an incredible schooling life. (Plus the many more teachers to mention: Miss Visser, Mr Reiher, Mr Davidson, the lot!!)


I miss the company of everyone together for five days a week, around 40 weeks a year. The community of BHCS is something special; the teachers become your friends, which is something so incredibly rare in so many schools. Not only are they committed to boosting your learning in the classroom, but they are willing to give a piece of themselves, and for that I am thankful.” – AZZAN SCHUSTER –

Did his whole schooling, from Prep to Year 12 at BHCS, graduating Year 12 in 2014



Balloon rising in the fog “…it was a very frosty and foggy winter’s morning. But despite the cold there was a buzz in the air. For through the fog, a hot air balloon could be seen on the oval. With large ropes securing the basket to the ground, the children, staff and parents were able to climb into the basket and enjoy a treetop ride. A majestic sight it was seeing this balloon rising through the fog. As the sky began to clear, the brilliant blue of the balloon could be seen, and then the BHCS banner with children’s handprints hanging from the basket in decoration. What a treat to witness the pure delight on the faces of its occupants. In many ways, the hot air balloon was a symbolic way to celebrate the opening of the new Secondary Science Building. Belgrave Heights Christian School; nestled in the palm of God’s hands, safe and secure. Being raised up, not only to love and nurture (and educate) those within its grounds, but also set apart. Set apart to care not only for its local community but also for the broader one. What a blessing these past 11 years have been.” – AMANDA WIGHT –

4 children attending since 2006. Board member 2015–present


Friendship spaces “…the path of my friendships throughout my time at BHCS is mapped very closely to the layout of the school – the spaces we played, talked and walked in, determined (in part) the nature of our interactions. When I first came, at the start of Term 3 in 2012, the land on which the Trade Training Centre now sits was only a muddy hill covered in gravel. I clearly remember coming around the back of the gym where kids were playing an impromptu form of racquetball against the tall, blank wall with their hands to serve as racquets. There weren’t any tables, so I sat (a little awkwardly) on the cold concrete with some of my new classmates, and it was there that we first became friends. A lot has changed since then: as first the Middle School rock garden was completed and then the VCE Centre/Trade Training Centre was built, we expanded into the new areas given to us and inhabited them in our own way; playing card games outside on a large flat rock when it was sunny; enjoying a coffee together in the VCE kitchenette when it was not. My experiences have shown me that the places where we live in community leave an imprint on our lives, shaping our experiences and memories. So as the school continues to grow and change for the better, I’ve no doubt that the people in it will too.” – JESSICA DONKER –

Student from 2012–2015




The school has blossomed! “…in 1988 the school was just two rooms on the property that had several other buildings on it as well, left over from its days as a Pressie camp site. The Preps and Year 5/6s were in one building (later used as the Pressie Church, with windows and a verandah all around) and the Years 1–4 in a portable building. The kids were divided up like this to even out the numbers for the two teachers. It meant that the preppies learned an interesting mixture of things, as when they had finished their work, they would listen in to the older kids’ lessons. The PFA was very active then (1988–91) – Cheryl and Debbie Becker were the movers and shakers at that time. One of our great accomplishments was getting a volleyball court asphalted – the only flat, hard surface the kids had to play ball games on. I think it’s gone now under a new building. In the early days a few of us mums had a weekly prayer meeting for the school. We had a vision for what the school could become, though it was sometimes hard to think it would ever come to pass, when there were just two little buildings and few enrolments – O’ we of little faith. (I am DELIGHTED to see how the school has blossomed). Sometimes, when it was raining, we would just sit in someone’s car to pray. I have memories of foggy windows, rain streaming down, people wrapped in coats, but good cheer within.” – LIZ LINDEN –

Parent 1988–1991 and 1994–1997


And the answer is? “…Joy McGrath hands the papers to Adam Messenger. Andy Callow champs at the bit like a runner in the blocks. Steve Kelly strokes his chin like a meditative sage. John Campbell’s eyes dart upward as if trying to capture an elusive memory hidden behind soggy weather maps and obscure Birdsland facts. I exhale like Puffing Billy and centre myself. So it begins… “Question one…” The daily staffroom quiz has almost become a tradition. When I had my first six month tenure at BHCS back in 2005, three or four of us would sit at the staffroom table and exercise our grey matter with Carey Young’s Herald Sun Quiz. These days more teachers than were on the entire staff back then flex their mental muscles each recess. But more than just a show of who knows more about platypi or the writings of Bertrand Russell, the quiz has been the excuse for all of us getting together, drinking coffee and just having a good laugh. So, tipping my hat to unwashed coffee cups and arriving a few minutes late to class, here are a few quiz questions. They are an excuse to slow down, chat to a friend, be impressed by knowing something you didn’t know you knew, and be perplexed by something new you never knew… plus the answers are all hidden above.


1. Lakeside, Paradise and Nobelius Siding have all been stations on which iconic railway line? 2. The Birds family owned and ran sheep on which property until it was declared a Yarra Ranges Reserve in 1984? 3. Which animal – missing for many years due to pollution – has returned to the Monbulk Creek and is central to the BHCS Environmental Program? 4. Which plant has fruit that can be described as epigynous berries or indehiscent drupes and has varieties such as arabica and canephora? 5. Which famous thinker once said, ‘There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge’?” – ALLEN DICKSON –

Enrichment & Curriculum Co-ordinator 2010–present



Goat-karting “…we love our builders! They are very much an integral part of BHCS, and some of them have worked around the school for well over a decade. When we draw towards the end of yet another major building project, we like to have a special celebration to thank the whole team. On one such occasion we organised a Go-Kart event after work for the builders and maintenance staff. Our main plumbing contractor and his assistant came along – and it nearly created a police incident! As the plumber arrived at the Dandenong venue his assistant shocked him by pulling out a long, lethal looking knife. When challenged about why he had brought such a weapon, he said it was for the goat. It turned out that in his culture when a group of men got together to celebrate, it often involved slaughtering an animal, so had brought his killing knife and had told his wife that he was going to bring home some goat meat! He had grown up in a Middle-Eastern country, but was working hard to develop good English skills. Unfortunately when we had invited him to go go-karting he thought we had said ‘goat cutting’! He was persuaded to leave the knife hidden in the ute, and then imagine his bemusement when we spent the next hour or so sliding little cars around a track rather than butchering a billygoat!” – ANDY CALLOW –

Principal 2004–present


The burning bush “…16th of February 1983 – Ash Wednesday. It’s the third week into the very first year of the school and a baking northerly had toasted the Hills to over 43ºC, just like a fan-forced oven. I’d put my car in for a service during the day and at 3:15pm it still wasn’t ready to go pick up Adrien, our eldest child in Prep, so I hopped on my bike to get down there to meet her at the end of the day, planning to walk home with her. As parents gathered in the yard, we were greeted by the ominous sounds of wailing sirens echoing balefully around the hills. Even more concerning were the palls of smoke rolling up the valley from Birdsland Reserve. We parents decided that the best thing to do was to get home as quickly as possible. Jennifer McCallum had arrived to pick up Andrew in her Kombi ute, so she offered us a ride, which I gratefully accepted. Mercifully, the winds drove the nascent fire up the gullies to the south of the school, so the impending baptism of fire at the school was avoided, although many houses and some lives in its path were lost over the next day or so. For many years after that the school was closed on a day of total Fire Ban, until it was eventually reasoned that it was actually probably one of the safer places to be in a catastrophic fire situation. Since then, the school has weathered quite a few storms of all kinds and the original logo of the burning bush, still visible in the Junior School gates, proved time and again to be a reminder of God’s presence, providence and protection in the life of the school.” – DARRYL THOMPSON –

Steering committee for the setting up of the school 1982. Parent of Adrien Thompson, student in the inaugural class of 1983 and a total of nine children who all attended the school over the various subsequent years. Teacher since 2005–present.


Darryl with Dimity, Rachel and Minette in 2009.


Kathryn at top on left; below posing with other staff 2015.


A beautiful bridge “…so we came back from Sudan in 2012, where the girls had been in a conservative Christian boarding school. And they needed a good school to attend here. We didn’t even know BHCS existed. But we knew we wanted to stay local, as we had a house in Tecoma. We checked out other schools, but felt a cool reception. They just didn’t seem the right fit. Then we just happened to see a sign for Belgrave Heights Christian School, and decided to drive in and enquire. As soon as we parked under a beautiful gum tree my daughter said, “I’ll get a job if I have to, to be able to attend here.” It’s hard to explain, but there was something about the spirit of the place… we immediately felt a peace that this was the right fit. We met Jodie, the registrar, and she was extremely welcoming. We could feel the warmth of the people here. She gave us a tour, even though, we found out later, this was not her day to do such things. From then on, everyone took an interest, and they went out of their way to make it easy for us. This school has been a beautiful bridge, coming from a really different lifestyle in Africa, to be integrated back into Aussie life.” – KATHRYN DONKER –

3 children attending from 2012–present. On staff as a learning assistant


The colour of socks “…I remember meeting Leigh Murray for our interview to have our eldest join Year 1. As we went through the different expectations and uniform requirements, I was mildly surprised that, as well as lace up shoes (we had come from a school in the Hills where pull on boots were the obvious and practical choice), white socks were also to be worn. My immediate thought was, “I bet you don’t have to wash the dirt off the soles!” This was also because the students were not allowed to wear shoes into the classroom! I had a small doubt in my mind about the practicality of this but Leigh was not someone to whom you would voice your disagreement! Needless to say, as I became more involved in the school, one of my projects was to change the colour of the socks!!! Glad to say we won! But really the most rewarding aspect of being part of the BHCS community was seeing the growth and many blessings. We were 82 students and only Primary; how amazing to see it now. God has certainly been good!” – JOANNE BOYD –

Associated with BHCS 1998–2009. Involved in PFA and on Council for 6 years


Joanne’s daughters, Rebecca and Kaitlin involved with buddies, camps and productions.


From a little acorn “…about a year or so after the school had started, one of the school’s supporters from New Zealand, Dr Jack Upsdell, visited and shared some words of encouragement in the task of establishing a Christian school. An illustration he used was of a great oak growing from a little acorn. The school and its facilities have grown from small beginnings to what they are today. In the first year of the school, the paved verandah outside the Conference Centre dining room was a suitable ‘wet’ area for Art classes. It was quite close to the main classroom area. Today the new purpose-built Art Complex is not far from there. An older style building on the property became a temporary library. It gradually grew with input and help from a teacher-librarian on school council, from a willing parent who spent hours cataloging, and from a teacher-librarian employed short term. Before that, reading materials were supplemented by regular excursion visits to the local library to borrow books. The school now has a modern, well equipped Discovery Centre. Providing a sealed sports/play area the size of a small basketball court was another project. Otherwise games were played on any graded or grassed flat area available. Today there is a Multi-Purpose Hall, sports courts and two ovals. By the end of 1992 the construction of the first stage of permanent school facilities was complete. On Sunday 22nd of November a service was held for ‘The School’s Tenth Anniversary and for the Dedication of the New Buildings’. The spacious conference room/original classroom was set up for the service with


beautiful rhododendrons and other floral decorations which the Principal (Jim Goode) provided from his garden. After the Thanksgiving Service the new building was dedicated and opened for inspection. A celebration cake displayed the words ‘To God be the Glory’. Although there were many challenges ahead, the school has grown from the ‘little acorn’ to the ‘spreading tree’ it is today.” – MARGARET HULLS –

Teacher 1984 for nearly 25 years

Top, Margaret with students. Bottom left, the old church. Bottom right, Margaret in 2015 with all the Prep–Year12 students Margaret taught in Prep.



A grin and a wink “…students who failed to pay attention in Leigh Murray’s class risked being hit by a flying whiteboard marker or any other available object. I, or a fellow student, would look up with a start, while Mr Murray would continue to speak as if nothing had happened, or perhaps only acknowledge your jolt back to earth with a grin and a wink. I remember travelling in Mr Davidson’s car to school camp (as the whole class could fit in three cars). We sang 80s classics at the top of our voices, with Mr D belting out “shoot that poison arrow through my har-ER-ART!” We had challenges to see who could eat a killer python with no hands (with our teacher laughing so hard he cried). There were trips to the snow, learning to surf and camping by the beach. Usually one pair of students was responsible for providing one meal, which meant icecream for breakfast and sausages for dinner. At sports camp the presenter would refer to us as ‘Belgrave South’ and we would shout back ‘Belgrave HEIGHTS’ at the top of our lungs. I remember Shakespearean swordfights with Mr Dickson; Bastille Day cake with Madame McGrath and the look of confusion on Mr Abraham’s face when the food tech lasagne disappeared. It was hidden down a classmate’s pants… but I never told him.” – ALEX MCQUEEN (VISSER) – Student 2002–2005


My favourite of all “…Grandparents Day is my favourite of all the events we run at BHCS. The joy is almost tangible as proud grandkids show off their work, classrooms and friends, and grandparents delight in their progress. Each year we provide morning tea for the visitors when they arrive, and one particular year sticks in my memory as Andy shared with the 300 or so present about the love he felt as a grandfather holding his first grandchild. There was nothing this child had done for him, but the joy at his presence was indescribable. You could feel the emotion behind his words shared by all those in the room. He then spoke about how this is the way God sees us – all of us, every person in the room as well as every student and staff member at the school. It was a profound moment of what we know so well, but also need reminding of often. I am so grateful for the challenges, growth, and delight I’ve experienced being a part of this community, and it’s been such a joy and privilege to work with my dad (Andy) and see him shine in his role here. I’m a little biased but I’m pretty sure you’ll agree!” – SARAH KELLY –

On staff, 2006–present




A helicopter – for show and tell! “…our family journey at BHCS has been an enjoyable 14 years beginning with our children in Prep through to our son Ben successfully completing Year 12 in 2014 and our daughter Brianna currently in Year 11 VCE. For my wife Natasha and I our initial contact with the school began with a tour around the school grounds, taking in the magnificent bush setting and, at that time, the recently built primary school building. The school population back then was around 80 students. We knew straightaway it was the right place to entrust our children’s education, demonstrated by the caring teaching staff and dedicated leadership team. Some years ago, my son approached his teacher asking if his uncle could land a helicopter, based in Olinda for fire fighting purposes, on the oval for show and tell. This of course had to go to the Principal for permission which Andy approved without hesitation. When the big day arrived the excitement amongst the children (and of course the big kids – the teachers!) was palpable as the helicopter landed with Ben introducing his uncle for show and tell. We have witnessed God’s blessing of provision and growth in the school population as more and more children and dedicated teachers have been able to join the school community. We have witnessed our children grow through their education, develop great friendships with their class mates and develop healthy and productive relationships with their respective teachers. Most importantly to us, has been the un-compromising approach to the application of the Christian faith incorporated throughout the curriculum, preparing young people for adult life and work beyond the school environment.” – STEPHEN DUNN –

Board member 2006–present, 2 children attending 2001–present


Life is complex “…some of the most challenging times in the short history of BHCS have involved grief and loss. John Bradfield was a deeply loved, quirky Maths and Science teacher and school parent. His sudden death in 2010 hit the community hard. The week immediately after was most intense, with special assemblies and a great deal of support from so many people of good will, led by the school chaplain, Mike Peele. I vividly remember the day we closed the school for John’s funeral, the moving service that honoured his life, and the procession afterwards which closed the main street of Upwey. John loved to talk about his faith, his strong belief in the resurrection and life after death. He made us laugh, his death made us cry, we miss him still. One day we will laugh with him again!! Life is complex. God is faithful. Heaven is assured.” – ANDY CALLOW –

Principal 2004–present




An extension of our family “…my family has been a part of Belgrave Heights Christian School for 15 years. When I say ‘a part of’, that is truly what I mean. BHCS has not just been a place for my children to be educated or a place where I have started my own career, its community has also become an extension of our family. It’s hard to pinpoint one story that we will remember about the school when there have been so many funny memories. Some of my fondest memories are of the sporting events. We had our cross country at Birdsland Reserve and swimming at Belgrave Pool. These were a hit, not only for the students, but the parents as well. There was always a huge turnout consisting of younger siblings, parents, grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents. I made some great friendships getting to know people at these events. The great thing was that the school wanted to get all ages involved. There would be parent/staff races. These could get quite competitive. The toddler races were a hit too. The upcoming students, who weren’t school age yet, would have a turn running in their own race. Their siblings would often help them and they were so excited when they got to run past the finish line. Occasionally the finish line, which consisted of two parent helpers and a huge banner, would run to the slower ones so they could say they finished. These were great times.” – BECCY BURTON –

Parent from 2001–2016. Staff member 2005–present


Falling into place “…I had been a teacher at Chairo Christian School in Drouin for 11 years and Mr Callow visited our campus to be part of a building opening celebration. He had been my ‘Head of Campus’ a few years earlier and he was the one who encouraged me to become an IT teacher. I loved working with him, and I missed being with him. When he visited Chairo, I jokingly asked him if he had any jobs at his school in Belgrave. We both laughed it off, but the next day he decided to ring me because he remembered I had been a primary school teacher and he needed one! I had been wanting to go back to primary school, and here was the perfect opportunity. I mentioned that my wife needed a job too and he invited both of us down to visit the school. As it turned out, there were two vacancies! The school has more than doubled in size since we first started, as we continually see God’s blessing and guidance. So many teachers at our school have a similar story; where things seem to ‘fall into place’ that allow them to come here. I have sent my own three sons to BHCS, knowing that their peer groups, teachers and all other staff have had a positive and profound effect on their lives. It really is the best school I know.” – STEPHEN REIHER –

2009–2011 Grade 5/6 teacher. 2012–present Media and Robotics teacher




Draining the lake “…the one story that comes to mind most, occurred one Sunday afternoon whilst clearing the space for the primary oval with my excavator. Yes I did work on Sunday sometimes! I was digging around the roots of a giant manna gum around 1.5 meters around the trunk, so it could be pushed over. I had the roots loosened and began to push the tree. It slowly started to move towards the creek and came crashing down. As soon as the root ball came up out of the ground brown water began to pour out of the ground and run down the hill. On investigation the tree had uprooted a 10 inch pipe and brown water was pouring out. At first I thought I had broken the main sewer line, but after a while the water was still running and there were no floaties or toilet paper. Then I thought it might be a main water line, but the pressure was not great and the water dirty. What a mystery. Trying to get someone from Melbourne Water to answer the phone on a Sunday, and then get some information was a time consuming task. No one anywhere seemed to know of a water or sewer main in the area. Finally someone from the council remembered a plumber who knew something and got him on his mobile. It turns out that there was an old cast iron pipeline from Belgrave Lake which was installed over 100 years ago to feed water to the township of Dandenong. When Lysterfield Lake was constructed it was no longer required and became a water feed to the farms in the Lysterfield valley. So I was draining the Belgrave Lake!!! Later in the afternoon someone with a very big spanner managed to turn the tap off at the lake and the water stopped. The pipe was repaired with a section of plastic the next day. On inspection of the tree roots, the tree, which must have been over 100 years old, had grown completely around the pipe tearing it up when it came out of the ground.” – IAN BIRCHALL –

Parent and Board Member


Of mice and men “…when I first taught Science at BHCS, we did not even have a lab. I taught in the kitchen area of the old church hall. I got in baby mice for the students to study. Although, beyond the measuring and documenting of length and weight, I did find some of the students cuddling their mice – not what I had in mind! The woodwork class helped out by making mazes, and we attempted to teach the mice to negotiate them – with some success. But in the end, the mice had to go – there were too many complaints about the smell. Now we have a dedicated science block and I only ever get female mice, because they don’t smell!” – JACKIE EASTWOOD –

Science Coordinator, 2003–present




That little bit longer “…there are those students who can’t spend enough time with you. They’re at your side at every opportunity. They’ll find any skerrick of a story to hold your attention just that little bit longer. Whether as chaplain, teacher, administrator or bus driver we are all here to build into the lives of each student – so we listen to the story that little bit longer. Over the years, our Easter services have provided a brilliant moment of challenge and reflection, a moment to dive deeper, beyond the classroom structure. We like to encourage the students to ‘ask questions if you just don’t get it.’ Don’t just let the moment pass, rather – ask. Immediately after one Easter service, one of ‘those’ students presented at my side, and to my shame I wondered what sketchy story he would bring up this time. But he just looked at me, tears welling up in his eyes, ‘Nick. I just don’t get it. Why would someone die for me, when they don’t even know me?’ Awesome. Whether relationships are built over time or in a moment, BHCS gives time for the building.” – NICK CRAWLEY –

Parent 2009–present, Chaplain 2011–present, Defender of the Universe–always


Only one thing matters “…a day in May 1998, balloons were out, in we went, through the gate. Staff were friendly, school’s so tiny. What did we think? It’s hard to remember. Follow up call later that week – Mr Murray here, what are your thoughts? Well the staff are lovely. Christian schools aren’t for us. If we’re ever in need we will give you a holler. By the way, our son reads and there is a problem, your library smells and could be bigger. Forward to July that year, our son’s in hospital, death could be near. A call on the phone, Mr Murray again, the whole school is praying, we thought you should know. By November, the decision is made, we will move him next year. He survived but needs care. The school would be perfect – small classes with flair, the prayers for his healing, Christ’s love always near. So into Year 4 Caleb began our journey, which has spanned many years, siblings and changes. 60 students to begin from Prep to 6. By Year 6 the question rose, could Year 7 be a chance? So with 14 students strong and their parents braving on, Belgrave Heights stepped out in faith again and took a chance. In that time the buildings grew, the library moved, and moved again. The Discovery Centre was born and on its staff Caleb’s mum now roams.


The school is bigger, the buildings better, but at the heart only one thing matters: the staff are lovely, and the students know Christ’s love is still the thing to show.” – CAROLYN O’BRIEN –

Parent 1999–2016, Admin. assistant 2006–2011, Discovery Centre Assistant 2010–present

Caleb, Carolyn and Jonah O’Brien.



You name it, we sold it! “…back in those day, the school was small, but it had character! On Open Days parents would bring morning tea for the visitors. All of us staff would be sitting in the staff room and the then Principal, Leigh Murray, would come and get us to be ‘rent-a-crowd’ so there would be more people to listen to the choir perform. And to keep the school running there was constant fundraising by the Parents and Friends Association. We had slice drives, SPC bulk purchases, pie drives, lamingtons, chocolates, toothbrushes – you name it, we sold it! We raised money for sports equipment, play equipment, musical instruments, art supplies and planted trees!”


On staff 2004–present. Parent 1997–2006


Just one more faith-step “…there are countless times in a Christian’s life where it is necessary to step out in faith, only realising God’s blessing much later. For Carrie and I, transferring our son Josh to BHCS in 2007, halfway through Year 8, was certainly a leap into the unknown. However, the benefits were immediate. BHCS was an answer to prayer, and God used the incredibly caring support of peers and staff at BHCS to re-direct the course of Josh’s life, and ‘give us our son back’. We didn’t need to think twice about sending our two daughters, Grace and Emily, to the school. One of my many highlights in our BHCS journey was sitting in the same room as Josh completing the 2010 Year 12 Design and Technology exam. This was a real insight into the VCE world, and we both passed, which may otherwise have been embarrassing! Since then Grace has completed her VCE, and is back working in the school’s Tree Tops Café occasionally, while studying Primary Teaching at university. Emily is currently in Year 11, and I am blessed to be in my fourth year working at BHCS as a Learning Assistant – just one more faith-step, and Godanswered prayer!” – JONATHAN SCAMPTON –

Middle School Learning Assistant, Wood Technology & Art Assistant, 2013–present Parent, 2007–present



Very fond memories “…there was lots of bush on the property. In 1988 I used to walk my daughter to school from the Belgrave-Hallam road direction, across a park, over the creek to the school. We would cross a fallen log to get to the school side until the council tidied up and cut up all the trees over the creek. We’d then follow a track through the bush to the school. The kids weren’t allowed to play down by the creek because of the danger of snakes and were taught that if they ever saw one, they had to run and tell a teacher. They had to play around the buildings where it was cleared. One of the little things I really liked about the school was when the first of the new buildings was completed and at playtime the big kids all helped the little kids on with their shoes and to tying their laces before everyone went out to play. In the new building there was carpet so it was shoes-off in the classrooms. Margaret Hulls was always very good at allowing younger siblings to sit in class if they wanted to (and were quiet). It was a great introduction for them to school as they could sit at the back and play quietly while we parents were busy doing whatever. And the library: I think it was about 1989 or 90 when the school paid for a librarian to come along and set up the formal library for the school. We could only afford to pay her for one term though. After that I, and later other mums, took over the library and just copied what the real librarian had set up. The library had its ups and downs, and was moved to various places, but survived. It began


in one of the old camp buildings, then into the back of a classroom I think, onto a hallway outside the toilets, then into the staffroom and that’s when I lost track of it. I could go on… but that’s enough waffling. My family has very good memories of BHCS.” – LIZ LINDEN –

Parent 1988–1991 and 1994–1997


Budgets, expenses and the true privilege “…when I first took over the finance management of the school from Geoff Weatherley, I was surprised by the method used by the then Principal, Leigh Murray, to keep control over the classroom and faculty budgets. He used the humble school exercise book for almost everything. As teachers spent money, they would enter the amounts in the book. The CRTs would enter their time in another book, and so on. The only problem was if we lost a book we couldn’t work out what to pay, or the amounts recorded did not tally with the invoices entered into the accounting package by our then receptionist/bookkeeper/registrar, Liz Stewart. We were all multi-taskers in those days. The educational expense budgets were huge in those days. In 2003, when we had 130 Prep – Year 7 students, the classroom budgets plus excursions, swimming lessons, camps and computer expenses, added up to a whopping total of $22,656. In 2016 the educational expense budget including school IT expenses is a total of $834,700 (for 695 students). The first major secondary building constucted was the Technology Wing (less than half its current size), which was used in the early days as a general classroom/ woodwork room/computer room/art room and staff offices. This was completed in a rush for the start of the 2005 school year. Both the Principal (Andy) and myself were painting the walls to the last. It was so exciting to open a purpose built secondary facility. The other building used for secondary was the old church hall and kitchen. That same year (2005), the Block Grant Authority (BGA) came to visit mid-year, as we had applied for a Capital Grant to help build the Music/Drama undercroft of 118

the Science Building that Ian Birchall and Daniel Veith were currently constructing. The BGA liked the undercroft idea so much, and I think took pity on us, that they offered us a Capital Grant amount greater than we had requested! I have never experienced that before or since. The amazing provision of facilities at BHCS, from the Rudd Multi-Purpose Hall to the Trade Training Centre Restaurant and Kitchen has been remarkable. Should we really be surprised? I guess that the overwhelming memory is of the hard work everyone has put in to this school over the many years I have been here (and well before), and the joy and privilege that it has been to serve the Lord in this place.” – GLENN J CAMPBELL –

Business manager, 2002–present


A giant burden lifted “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 “…this verse from Jeremiah has always been an inspiration for me, because I know that no matter how hard a situation may seem there is always hope. If someone had told me when I was being home-schooled that I would be a student and then a library assistant at a Christian school in Belgrave, I probably wouldn’t have thought it at all possible. When I was ten years old I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. A year later I started going to a mainstream school. Compared to my last three years of school, feeling like I was drifting along a peaceful river, my first four years of school had me feeling like I was riding a super windy and topsy-turvy roller-coaster. I had been getting really discouraged at my old school and had started to not care about getting an education. Then, when I started at BHCS in Term 4 of Year 8, I felt like a giant burden had been lifted off my shoulders. When I was in Year 10 I started volunteering in the Discovery Centre, which I kept doing until the end of Year 11, where I was asked if I wanted to join the staffing team as a library assistant. I have been richly blessed by this school in more ways than one.” – MICHAELA VALENTINE –

Past-student and library assistant 2016



Doing life together “...working at BHCS is not always about staying up to date with curriculum, uniform infringements and the latest sporting results. One of the most powerful things I’ve experienced at BHCS is the mentoring of staff to each other, particularly those more experienced in life (not just in teaching). The honesty, the humility and the genuine care I have had from those I have worked with has been profound. Along my journey here at BHCS, we have experienced learning together in a very authentic way! I have witnessed and experienced on many occasions these authentic relationships, whether it be a passing smile, a small note of thanks, a surprise free lunch, someone following up on a past conversation, someone giving some timely advice or someone laughing, crying (or both at the same time) with you. Even when things seem really busy, people in my offices over the years, will still find time to do a prank or make a joke, just to make someone else smile. For me the authenticity does not only come from sharing our passions for education and the united front to build the next generation, however, it is the fun along the way we have. Whether it is long days behind the scenes of a production, or listening to each other’s devotions each day, or talking around a fire in the middle of the bush while we wait for students to fall asleep, or taking a moment in the day to ask someone, ‘how are you really doing?’ Sometimes it is our staff retreats each year, where we race around a farm or the city doing silly things and then laugh when we realise it was all recorded on camera. Most of the fun for me is when we play sport together against the students, desperate to not let age be the barrier between winning and losing.


Overall, it is a mixture of mentoring and discipleship that I love which creates a true authentic experience but my favourite combination is the ability to joke around (we share a lot of laughter together) and then sit back to have a deep conversation about life, choices and truth. This is what makes working here more than just a day-to-day job. I am motivated by others to be the best that I can be and of course, enjoy it along the way. Something I then aim to share with my students.” – NATASHA ESHUIS –

Teacher, Middle and Senior school, 2011–present


Top, Jenny on the left. Below, some action shots from the early days.


Revelling in a terrapin “…it was just over 20 years ago that my family first passed under the shady branches of two beautiful birch trees and entered through the doors of the little chapel that lay hidden in the hills of Belgrave Heights. Here, Sunday after Sunday, we heard the Word of God faithfully preached. The surrounding grounds were a sea of blackberries, and in the hotter months we would pick our fill of blackberries and triumphantly carry home buckets full to turn into pies and jams and eat a-plenty with ice-cream. It was a child’s wonderland – my children would venture down to the creek to explore its many varied treasures of tyres, bikes and chairs; they would come back dirty and muddy from visiting the swamp – revelling in finding a terrapin turtle along with the inevitable numerous tadpoles. They spent many hours constructing cubby houses on the top block with the abundant supply of wood. And as my children grew, so too did the school. Where there was once a small white wooden shed that housed hay bales and served as our Sunday-school room, it gave way to a much needed Food Technology and Science building. The Church Hall became the classroom for the first cohort of mischievous Year 8 students, and one day our green and white chapel was jacked up and removed to make way for the Administration building and new library.” – JENNY SIMMONS – Teacher 2004–present


To my amazement! “…I am a great believer that God works in mysterious ways and that there is Divine intervention. At Belgrave Heights Christian School you can constantly experience God’s presence. This is one practical example of this. One morning I came to work knowing that I was going to be the only library staff member working in the Library that day. It was a lovely warm, sunny day so it was decided that the Library would be closed at lunchtime. When these occasions occur we have a sign that we put on the front door. This sign was locked in a drawer that I didn’t have a key to. I decided to try every key we had in the Library to see if by any chance one of them would unlock the drawer. I had no success with any of them. About an hour later I found a key that I hadn’t tried, so with minimal optimism I put it in the lock and turned it. To my amazement the key unlocked the drawer so I was able to get the sign and place it on the library door. At the end of the day I decided to relock the drawer, however, when I put the key into the lock it would not turn so I couldn’t relock the drawer. Since then, that key has never worked again in the lock.” – WENDY PROBERT –

Discovery Centre staff member 2015–present




The grand vision “…my journey at Belgrave Heights Christian School is one of faith, seeing God honouring His word and blessing the school abundantly from 87 students to a waiting list. In June 2001, I shared with the interview panel the grand vision the Lord had given me regarding the Hospitality Department. For my first Food and Technology class, our students were bussed to Mountain District Christian School. Shortly after that we used Mt Morton campsite and finally that year we were forced to use the old church kitchen with two stoves and one kitchen sink. It was certainly a challenge to teach students in this environment. However, we persevered with hope and faith until the purpose-built Food and Technology room was ready in the Science block. This venue provided us with an opportunity to start catering for special functions. With the strong support and encouragement from our Principal, Andy Callow, our students started catering for not only school functions but offsite private functions such as wedding afternoon teas. This experience provided a pathway for the grand vision to become a reality. With prayer and faith our school received the Commonwealth grant to build the Hospitality Centre. In 2014 we sang the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness before the official opening of the Trade Training Centre. In 2015, the Lord gave me a new assignment, but His faithfulness and favour will always remain with BHCS.” – NOWELL ABRAHAM –

Food and Technology and Hospitality teacher 2002–2014


I’m going to be a dad! “…the Year 9 Marine Program involves many excursions and activities including a day at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. My wife Steph was 8 months pregnant with our first child, and had plans on this particular day to go shopping with her Mum right after her obstetrician appointment. She arrived at the doctors and expected it to be a quick check up, but her waters broke and she was admitted to hospital on the spot! The first thing she did was to try to call me at work, as she was determined that I was to be the first to know. She called my mobile and I didn’t answer. Steph called the school office and said it was important, Kelle tried to call the other teachers who were with me on the excursion, but alas no one answered as we were all in the swimming pool. Finally, after her third phone call one of the bus drivers answered her phone, and she came racing to tell me that Steph was in the hospital and about to go into labour! I remember thinking I have to get out of this pool quick!! I was shocked, excited and completely freaked out. Dripping wet and running to the bus I yelled to the class, “I’m going to be a dad!” I asked the bus driver to drive me to the Freemasons hospital in our large 45-seater bus, with me as the only passenger. Once I arrived at the hospital and got to Steph’s room, I realised that I was still dripping wet as I didn’t even think to dry myself! It was an exciting day that changed our lives forever and I love that BHCS worked together to get me to the hospital! Furthermore, staff arranged to have our car brought back to our house decorated with baby toys. It was a day that illustrates good community and family.” – ROWAN JEFFERY –

Teacher and Year 9 Coordinator 2008–present



Students in prayer, and worship. Zayda in the peachy top.


The prayer warriors “…it is often said by people who believe in Christ that we should have a ‘child-like faith’. I never truly understood this concept until I started teaching in the Junior School. One of the things I love about teaching at Belgrave Heights Christian School is being able to share my faith with the students. We start each day with devotions or worship and this leads into great discussions about what it means to believe in Jesus. Often, at the end of our Maths lessons before lunch, I ask one of the students to pray before they go out for lunch. However, one day I was about to leave the classroom when something caught my eye. I looked over to see five boys standing in a circle with their heads down, eyes closed and hands together. I watched and observed the boys for a few minutes before they stopped and went to get their lunch. I went over to one of the boys afterwards and asked what they had been doing. He said they had been praying for each other. I was so amazed to not only see these boys praying for each other, but also the faith they have in Jesus. This has taught me about what a ‘child-like faith’ looks like and how important it is to share the Christian journey with my students.” – ZAYDA DOIDGE –

Junior School Primary Teacher 2014–present


Where do I start? “…maybe by saying that I adore the community that is BHCS, from the teachers who are more than happy to discuss and pray, to the head of maintenance who humbly looks the other way when I make rookie mistakes. But the attribute that I’m constantly reminded of, is the acceptance that warms my heart as soon as I put my feet on the property. Sometimes, having a tainted past makes it hard to walk with your head high, but the whole time I have been at BHCS the whole community, from the Principal to the Bus Drivers, have shown me forgiveness and acceptance. That makes it easier to walk around and remember what Christ has done for us, through the love and acceptance His people have shown me, and I’m forever grateful.” – CLINT MARTIN –

Maintenance 2010–present



I’m going to let God nag you! “…my husband Clint was always keen to have the kids at Belgrave Heights. Well before our eldest started Prep, we toured Belgrave Heights Christian School and also our local primary school, four doors down from our house. The matter of convenience won out, and we sent our daughter to the local primary school. Every time something cropped up, Clint would say, ‘Well, if we were at Belgrave Heights...’ This happened quite a bit, but finally, Clint said ‘I’m not going to nag you about Belgrave Heights anymore.’ What a relief, I thought. “No, I’m going to let God nag you.” He continued. “Doh!” I mumbled. Thus began a conversation of sorts between me and God. Mostly with me telling Him why it was a sacrifice and inconvenience to send the kids to Belgrave Heights. It was too far. How would we afford it? We would be eating beans on toast for the next 20 years! But one day I had a revelation, and I asked God, “What do you want? Do you want the girls at Belgrave Heights.” That very same day, I had an answer. My eldest had been struggling in school, mostly with a difficult teacher and I had received a phone call from the school asking me to review some test results. Even as the assessor was talking to me about the poor results, I just had in my head, ‘This is an environment issue’ over and over. As they were still talking about modified programs etc, I interrupted them and said, ‘No. Give me a week.’ I rang Belgrave Heights that day and made an appointment to see Andy Callow. I still had no idea how we were going to pay for it, but I knew that we needed to get our children into Belgrave Heights, and I knew that God wanted them there. During the meeting with Andy, we explained the situation and the conviction I felt that if my daughter was in a nurturing environment, she would flourish, and the


results from the testing at Belgrave Heights mimicked those exact words. Well, there were so many tears in the room that day. We just knew God had it in hand, and we wouldn’t be eating beans on toast. Friends gave us school uniforms, and I got used to the driving. And my daughter did indeed flourish, and is a confident young lady today. I fell in love with the school environment so much, I petitioned God for a job in the school. I didn’t care what capacity I served in, I just wanted to be part of this wonderful community called Belgrave Heights Christian School. I applied for a few jobs, finally landing the role of canteen assistant for 2.5 hours a week. The hours increased and I became canteen manager in 2013. I love our school community, the caring and nurturing teachers and friendly staff who genuinely love God and love people.” – JEN MARTIN –

Canteen Manager 2011–present


Sometimes very challenging â€œâ€ŚI spent some time teaching Wood Technology and Graphics at BHCS from 2004 to 2006. My position was only part-time as I had a business as a retail interior designer that occupied most of my week. I had wanted to do some part-time teaching again for some time and had visited the school when the previous principal (Leigh Murray) was there, exploring the possibilities with him back in the late 90s. When I arrived at the school in 2004 (for an interview with Andy Callow) I was amazed at how the school had progressed in terms of infrastructure; the school was looking great with lots of new buildings. Having worked in the corporate world since 1989, I was looking forward to working with teaching colleagues again and the staff at BHCS did not disappoint. They were wonderful people whose motives are very altruistic, driven by their personal relationships with God and consequently a sincere desire to do their best for the students. At the time BHCS was under pressure to take in as many students as possible and in my experience this resulted in a mix of students, many presenting with very difficult behavioural issues (in several classes, but not all). Of course with too many such students, teaching becomes very challenging. I was impressed by the energy of the staff to counsel and mentor these students to encourage them to achieve the results they were capable of and become positive members of society.


As I live close to the school it has been encouraging to see it move on to greater things with many more facilities and programs being added to its constantly expanding curriculum offerings to the students.” – BARRY VAN ES –

Teacher of Wood Technology and Graphics, 2004 – 2006

Barry on the top right. Students with their woodwork projects in 2004.



I owe a lot! “…Belgrave Heights Christian School was my school for 13 years, from Prep all the way through to Year 12. When I first started in primary school, that’s all there was. There was no such thing as a secondary area; BHCS was just a small primary school. It was exciting to see the school grow and it was nice to have all the new facilities that came with it. There are a lot of fond memories that I have of the school; I made great friends and had a lot of great teachers which made my years of school fun and interesting. Towards the end of my schooling I enjoyed those times where we could just sit down with friends and talk and have a good time, including the times where we would have a relaxed class with some teachers who were hilarious and chilled, while we still learnt. I always thought that the school was supportive and caring of its students. I am a burn survivor with significant injuries including an acquired brain injury, requiring a lot of help when I was younger and I owe a lot to the teachers and to the integration aides who helped me through the years to achieve my very best. I am extremely happy to have gone to this school and am proud that I have achieved all that I have through the school.” – MATTHEW THIELE –

Student at BHCS, Prep to Year 12, finishing in 2013


From grimy windows to new computers â€œâ€ŚI have many distinct memories of the very first library at Belgrave Heights. It was a relatively small, fairly decrepit looking building at the bottom of the school. If it were still around, it would probably be used as a storage shed rather than a classroom. The building itself always seemed fairly dirty, with grimy windows and floors. There was one small room where we had the library class, and another where the actual books were stored. Neither was too flash-hot, both with bad carpet, and fairly dark. Most of the windows were too sheltered and dirty to let in much natural light, but the window in the actual library was not too bad. The library itself was quite small. At least two shelves, possibly three to my memory. Most of the books had a distinct second-hand feel to them, especially with the old library check-out tags in the bag, with stickers dating back to the early 80s. But as old as some of those books were, I remember reading quite a few of them. Then the second library was built, and opened with much fanfare. I remember standing in the undercover area while the opening ceremony went on, and really looking forward to the new facility. Giant windows, natural light, lots more books (some new!)... it was very exciting. The room was a lot bigger, both in floor space and height, which made the classes considerably more enjoyable. Unfortunately the room was still fairly cramped, as it was still part classroom, part library. So the back wall was covered in books, and there were about 3 double-sided shelves and some stands from there, pressed up against tables and chairs. It made for fairly cramped browsing, I can tell you.


One new addition that was certainly not in the old library was computers. Six of them along one wall. The best part was they were all networked together and had a space fighter game that we could play through lunch. Good fun. The new library was a huge step forward for the school, but we didn’t greatly understand that, we just saw it as a cool new building amongst a whole lot of other old buildings.” – CALEB O’BRIEN –

Past student 1999–2005

Caleb, second from the left, the grimy computers and the old church hall.


Ken on the bottom left. Lower middle and right, photos of the State Council. Above, the Tree Tops cafe at BHCS.


Hospitality – a core value “Christian Schools Australia moved its Vic/Tas State Office to Belgrave Heights Christian School in 2015 when Andy Callow became Chair of the CSA State Council. That year CSA identified ‘hospitality’ as one of its core values, and this was already a very strong feature of BHCS. As Executive Officer I requested the move to BHCS to pick up on this quality of hospitality, and to encourage hospitality to become contagious across the movement of Christian schools. I recall many occasions where the new restaurant at BHCS was used as a base for meetings with school leaders, politicians, corporate sponsors, and many others. What a beautiful setting in which to conduct your business! The restaurant was obviously Andy Callow’s second office – because he seemed to conduct most of his meetings there. An exception to this was when BHCS staff were each given a fitbit device to encourage physical fitness. Generosity was extended to the CSA staff who were also each given a device to wear. It didn’t take me long to realise that this meant meetings with Andy would be held while briskly walking around the oval, or along a nearby walking track – to keep up the goal of 12,000 steps a day – a healthy alternative to restaurant meetings!” – KEN GREENWOOD –

Exectuctive Officer of Christian Schools Australia


Billycarts and crazy names “…one of my fondest memories whilst at BHCS involves John Bradfield and billy carts. I believe it was in my first year of joining BHCS (2009). I’d had a year off with my children and was a little tentative about establishing myself in a new school. Building relationship and rapport takes time, but is so important. At some point I had heard about the billycarts that students were building. I hadn’t paid a lot of attention as it didn’t involve me directly and was certainly way out of my comfort zone. But then I heard that there was one called the ‘VickyFraanje’. To be honest, my first reaction was of concern and I think annoyance. I didn’t teach any of the students, I didn’t even know who they were, and so my first thought was that maybe they were making fun, maybe they were going to make this big clunky monstrosity and call it the Vicky Fraanje in a derogative way. With a deep breath I decided that I should confront the students and find out what was happening. So into the Science class I go, I’m pretty sure I remember Sarah Wohlgehagen being in there. With some trepidation, I introduced myself and asked them the reason for the name, (all manner of reasons bouncing in my head), only to be told through considerable laughter that they just thought it sounded like a great name for a race car! In 20 years of teaching, I have been called many things; a race car is not one of them! To my huge relief, I had not offended, upset or got these students off-side, absolutely no malice was intended. We laughed and I came to realise (as I had many times before in my teaching career) that it is never good to take yourself too seriously! A relationship developed as the car came together and I remember clearly, standing in the carpark, watching this billy cart career down the hill yelling out “go the VickyFraanje’… not something I do every day!” – VICKY FRAANJE –

Teacher since 2009, parent of two students at BHCS, current Head of VCE and VET


Vicky the year she started with her son Nick, and John Bradfield testing out the ‘VickyFraanje’!


Nick on Year 10 camp and some happy students at itzAAAfest.


Something I’d been chasing “…I became a teacher after realising that my chosen profession had left me working only with machinery and never humans. I fancied that teaching would give me the opportunity to work with others, especially youth, as well as provide time for family and friends. I have truly found this to be the case. However, having worked in the state education system for 6 years my best efforts were often stymied by a lack of funding and resources or by an abundance of bureaucracy. Coming to BHCS, I found myself in a school without these roadblocks. The lack of freedom and resources to move forward were things of the past. True, I’m still incredibly busy at work, but the feeling of being utterly hamstrung has completely disappeared. This freedom was something I was chasing and hoping for, but there’s something else here too. People go out of their way to make you feel valued: shouting someone a meal, giving their efforts a mention and celebrating their achievements are daily occurrences. I hadn’t realised how hollow a staff community felt without positive reinforcement until I experienced the counterpoint. What a motivation it is to feel that your workplace and colleagues support you and more importantly, value you. It’s still early days for me here, but there’s a lot to like.” – NICHOLAS BURKE –

Science and Maths teacher, 2016–present


The old Art room was ‘interesting’! “…as a past teacher of BHCS, it has been incredible to see and hear about the amazing growth of the school over the last 10 years. (I do check out the website from time to time.) God has indeed bestowed many blessings on the School. In 2003, I was privileged to be offered my first teaching position, as an ‘oldie’ but a ‘newbie’, teaching Art from Prep to Year 7 and a couple of Computer classes. It was the first year of secondary school enrolments. Working in the old Art Room (the current car park) was ‘interesting’. Christine Steer and Michelle Visser were terrific colleagues to work with and, together, we performed some internal renovations and painted the room to add light and cheer. Storage shelving included bunks from when the building served as a dormitory decades prior. Another fond memory is working with John Bradfield, who kindly donated a kiln for firing clay models. Both of us were extremely worried that the high temperatures would get out of control and cause an explosion, so we set our alarms during the night and rendezvoused in the wee small hours to check that all was well. I appreciated John’s scientific and technical expertise in inserting the thermometer inside the kiln to take the measurements which exceeded 1000 degrees. Congratulations to all who have been involved in growing the school and showing such wonderful acts of service over these past decades.” – LEANNE SAWARD –

Art & ICT teacher 2003–2005, Year 1 teacher 2006, Parent 2000–2004



Paul on the bottom left. Jesse as a young boy on the top left; bottom right, graduating Year 12 in 2006.


That day was a turning point “…a memory of a little boy in my class, Jesse. I’d been warned that he couldn’t read and was a naughty little boy. The first time I met him, he crawled under a table at the edge of the room. He wouldn’t come out. I let him be. Having a new fill-in teacher can be traumatic. Though he made little attempt to do any work that morning, he did appear to be listening. Patience, warmth and a willingness to understand encouraged him to join in a little. I noticed his keen interest in some stories I told about nature. When I asked a question or two, he could answer in detail. I realised that it was not that he was being naughty at all. Rather, he was confused and was ‘staying safe’ in his own, comfortable space. When I told his mum later that he had been no problem and was clearly quite intelligent, she cried. Someone had understood her little boy. Evidently, very few people did. That day may have been a turning point in his life at school. Over the time I taught him, he proved that, with encouragement and acceptance, he could read and learn – in fact he knew a great deal! An inspiration to me, I remember him very fondly. Today, he is a fine young man with a great future ahead of him as he develops his own special skills. He is just one of many children whom the Lord has touched with His loving kindness and grace at BHCS.” – PAUL ESHUIS –

Grade 1/2 teacher in 2nd semester 2005


It remains a privilege “…with a major curriculum review required for Victorian schools in 2006, there was a need to not only produce documentation, but also to reflect on the Biblical foundations of what was being built so quickly in a such a formative time of the school’s history. Such a diverse team of people, many of whom had soldiered through significant past challenges, were at the faith edge of shaping a Godly vision for a prosperous and healthy future. The school was on the threshold of its inaugural VCE program and, in those 12 months, laid the bedrock of an educationally sound but Christ-centred education throughout every year level. This remarkable achievement has continued to be built upon as passionate teachers and support staff pursue the journey of discipleship that dares to believe in a God-given call for every young person enrolled. It was a privilege to serve alongside so many wonderful people, including such a fervent and inspiring leader in Andy Callow. As a pastor of church members excited by the school’s mission and curriculum today, it remains a privilege to have once shared more directly a small portion of the journey of growth that burned brightly as a dream but has now become a blessed reality.” – ROB NYHUIS –

Curriculum Coordinator and Year 10 Maths and English teacher 2006


Rob on the mic; and below students at work in their varied classes.


The creation of Cluckingham Palace “…I feel so privileged to have experienced and taught in the Year 9 Keen on Green project in the year 2010. This was the year of building the hen house. The students and I had an idea and some inspiration, springing from a Year 9 course called ‘What makes you mad?’. We decided to get environmentally friendly, be more sustainable in our lifestyle and make a commitment to eating food from organic sources. A school hen house was a great option. So with this small group of students, we became ‘Keen on Green’. After printing up some T-shirts and planning our term, we embarked on an incredible journey of building from scratch, an amazing self-sustainable hen house. We sourced hen house ideas from local people, materials from local businesses and labour from local tradesmen. Our students worked with VCAL students from Mount Evelyn Christian School and their amazing teacher Lance Peele, who designed the project and performed all the welding. Andy Callow and Glenn Campbell were very supportive in providing funds and enthusiasm. From July to December, Keen on Green spent many days with shovels, hammers, drills, timber and concrete in the rain, hail or shining sun. What a journey. Once the hen house was complete, the students piled into the bus and we headed to ‘Abundant Layers’ to buy our new chicks. Each student chose a hen of their choice, and thus began our very eclectic mix of school hens.


That was six years ago. The hens and egg business is still flourishing. Each year Keen on Green brings a new addition to the school gardens – a hothouse, tool sheds, garden beds, willow tunnel, themed gardens, wetlands, frog breeding ponds and growing vegies. What a blessing our school continues to be.” – COLLEEN PEELE –

Science Teacher and Environmental Education Coordinator 2010–present



So many opportunities “…when I first arrived at Belgrave Heights Christian School I was a fresh faced, small and very inexperienced graduate teacher! And I was given so many opportunities! I was able to write a new drama curriculum, teach from Prep right through to Year 8 (as that was all there was in those days) and develop as an educator in a way that would not have been possible in a larger school. I arrived as BHCS was beginning to transition from a small community school into Prep to Year 12, with amenities to rival many larger schools. As BHCS grew, so did I. I was only on staff for 4 years but my time at Belgrave set foundations which I have stood upon in pastoral ministry, chaplaincy and theatre work. Some of my fondest memories include the ski camp with Lance, writing our own plays and performing them at Burrinja and all the wonderful people I was able to work with and learn from. I’ll also never forget the countless times I was mistaken for being a student, so much so, that one free dress day I borrowed a school uniform and was asked to take some prospective parents on a tour! Blessings and thanks to BHCS!” – LUCY KENSHOLE (nee JOHNSON) –

Drama and English teacher and Drama Coordinator 2003–2006; casual teacher 2010


This is straight from the building site “…being part of the building team here at BHCS has taught me many skills over the past 12 years. Arguably one of the most important things I have learnt, and I’m still working on, will be improving communication with others on the building site. As a site manager, I was giving instructions to a labourer one day to do some gap-filling around the building before it was painted. I told the labourer, “Go to a particular room in the building and on the floor you will find a box of Selleys No More Gaps… go use it to carry out the gap-filling around the building.” I then left him to his task, and a couple of hours later I went to check on his work, to discover the whole building had been gap filled in Selleys Liquid Nails! I almost died. I don’t often swear but I remember some foul language coming out of my mouth – ohhh …. what have you done!!!!!!!! Oh >>>> how are we going to get that off !!! I went on and on, probably for way too long. For those who don’t know, the product that he was supposed to apply is water-based and white in colour to match the plaster. The other is mineral-based and brown in colour. I didn’t mean to offend him, but the rest of the afternoon all that could be heard from the building site, at the top of his voice over and over, was “Yes Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me.” After the day had passed, I came to realise what a neat job he had done for a product that wasn’t at all designed for gap-filling. I believe now that I’m a better communicator after experiences such as these. And looking back, I see and am reminded of how much God has shaped me through my experiences here. I feel blessed to have been a part of the building projects, and the many people I’ve journeyed with so far.” – DAN VEITH –

Carpenter/Builder 2002–present


Dan, on the bottom right, addressing the school; at the top, working on the stairs; and on the bottom left, with his workmates.



Groaning the extra mile “…the first ‘Go The Extra Mile’ that I was involved with had Andy Callow, Kenny Wong, Lyn Thompson and myself as a team of four. The whole school got behind the cause. Primary students ran laps, students and teachers entered to complete the 50km course through the Dandenongs, and many of the BHCS community donated money. It was an amazing way to raise money for great causes. Our plan as a team of four was to run as much of the 50km distance as possible. Lyn kept our pit-stops to a couple of minutes and the support of family and friends kept us going when our legs wanted to rest for a couple of weeks. The 1000 steps at the 38km mark taxed the legs and mind even more than the steep hills that had ropes along them to assist the ascents and descents. The sounds of someone groaning in pain as every muscle in their legs cramped simultaneously could be heard for miles. Then I realised the sounds were coming from me. Two more years and two more ultra-marathon distances saw generous students, teachers, families and friends donate money to see us push physically and mentally… or maybe they just wanted to see us in pain! I think we came in as the second team across the finish line the first and second year, and the first team across the line in the third year. Thanks to the Jackel family for organising events that not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the support of families, the global community and youth going through tough times, but also got the entire school involved in an amazing cause. And a special mention must go to Jake Phelan. As he couldn’t do the Go The Extra Mile he donated all the money he earned on that weekend in his part time job – $200 – a lot of money for a 16 year old. He couldn’t be talked out of it. Incredibly generous.” – IVAN SESKIS –

Teacher, Head of Senior School, 2010–present day. Parent 2011–present


Cupcakes and a pineapple pen “…my time at BHCS has been special in many ways. When I think of some of the snapshots of memories, I am humbled by the thoughtfulness and kindness of students. Being encouraged whilst awkwardly learning to surf on VCE camp; students waiting to hold a door open when my arms are full of books; my homeroom giving me a party when I became an Australian; cupcakes on my birthday; a pineapple pen when I commented how cool I thought pineapples were; flowers left on my desk when I was unwell. To be part of these beautiful young peoples’ lives for a short time is such an incredible blessing and privilege. I am so very grateful for them.” – MICHELLE FARRAND –

Senior School Maths and Science Teacher 2011–present



On left, Stuart in his bus ready to go. On right, students also on the go!


A place of peace “…BHCS has many different faces that it shows to those who enter its grounds. For teachers and students it’s a place of learning and growth, both educationally and spiritually. For admin, maintenance and bus drivers it’s support of the teachers and students. But for others, it may be a place of refuge in a busy world. In a discussion with an educational rep that was visiting the school with wares to sell, it was a place of peace. The comment was made that each time they visited the school they felt an atmosphere of peace and therefore enjoyed the opportunity to visit. For a school to have that reputation in the eyes of visitors, reflects on all who attend it. No, this is not Nirvana, but it is a place where God’s Spirit dwells in the hearts of staff, and that flows into the lives of students and visitors. It’s a joy to be a part of this family in God’s small Kingdom of BHCS.” – STUART JOHNSTON –

Bus driver & Maintenance assistant. Casual staff 2012–2015. Staff 2016–present


Isaac, top right in the sparkly wig.


Quite a few really good ones! “…during my time at Belgrave Heights Christian School, I have been attending since the beginning of 2006, I’ve gone from Year 7–Year 11, I’ve made a large number of friends over the years and one of my best teachers was Mr Topham, but he wasn’t my only best teacher. I had quite a few really good ones that I got along with. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been at Belgrave Heights; I’ve also been a part of the singing group which was run by Adi (Adrien) March and also Mr Thompson (her dad), which was normally on a Monday lunchtime. All the teachers and the Principal (who had taught me Maths at some stage) were all really nice and easy to get along with. Food-Tech was also one of my subjects that I enjoyed and my teacher at the time was Mr Abraham who no longer teaches at Belgrave Heights. However, there were quite a lot of meals that I learnt and got taught the skills for. I was very fortunate that even after some people in my class didn’t continue on with their French learning, I still kept going with it in Mme McGrath’s class (even though a lot of the students in my class were younger than me). Some other subjects I’ve enjoyed were Science, IT and Drama. I especially enjoyed a bit of acting with Mr Topham acting out plays like Macbeth and learning all about Shakespeare.” – ISAAC ROBERTS – Student 2006–2010


God does the heavy lifting “…those of us who have had the privilege of serving on the School Council since the early days when BHCS was struggling for survival, have seen just how incredibly the Lord has blessed this school, met every need, overcome every obstacle – and have enjoyed an amazing faith journey. As Council members it is our responsibility to see to the smooth ordering of the affairs of the school and to administer the resources at our disposal in the best possible way for the education and nurture of our students in a Christian environment. What has been so encouraging to our faith is that time and time again we have been faced with big challenges and sometimes obstructions that in human terms, we could not see a way around. At these times we have witnessed God working and providing answers and solutions we simply could not have found ourselves. Here are just a few of the countless ways we’ve seen God do the heavy lifting for us. When we were in a situation where student numbers were so low that it looked like the school would have to close, another Christian school (whose building program was behind schedule), sent two classes to us and by the time their buildings were ready most of these students decided to continue on at BHCS – providing the critical numbers to make the school viable. When the school needed to buy more land for expansion, but didn’t have the money, private donors from within the Presbyterian Church made gifts and loans sufficient for our needs. When we needed money to build new classrooms and administrative offices, the government departments that fund these projects


provided more than we could have imagined. Perhaps most importantly though, it is in the area of personnel where we have been most richly blessed by God. The provision over the years of highly talented, knowledgeable and energetic Principals, Business Managers and Administrative staff, has given the school its remarkable character, quality and stability. These experiences have taught us the profound truth of Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” – DIRK JACKSON –

Chairman of the School Council, and a member of Council since 1995

Dirk on the left. And some literal ‘heavy lifting’ in BHCS school construction.


Don’t climb trees! “…I remember the holiday Monday where Ian Birchall took on the daunting task of removing the giant pine tree next to the Junior School building. He had his chainsaw, his excavator and his expertise, and I came to lend assistance. Unfortunately Ian had injured his knee, which meant I had the job of climbing high into the tree with a thick rope and a heavy loop of chain. Pine trees are easy to climb because they have plenty of handholds, and I soon made my way 20 or so meters up the trunk to a suitable ‘pull point’. The challenge now was to pass the chain and shackle around the main trunk – still at least a metre in diameter even at that height. This proved to be a daunting task. I had to balance as best I could and then LET GO with both hands while attempting to throw the chain links hard enough to catch them reaching behind the tree! I lost a fair bit of skin from the rough bark as I pressed as hard as I could against the ‘safety’ of the trunk while scrabbling and fumbling desperately to grab the other end of the chain. Success! Relief. Mission accomplished. With hands and knees shaking and heart pounding I made my sweaty descent, and then regained my composure while watching Ian skilfully fall the tree exactly where planned. It was only then that I realised I had set an appalling example of hypocrisy as a School Principal. Was it only recently that I had warned off BHCS students from climbing trees in the school playground!?! (At least no-one got a photo of my spectacular transgression!)” – ANDY CALLOW –

Principal 2004–present



Below on left, Ivan teaching. Above, with his teaching colleagues.


The ordinary, day-to-day challenge “…I just want to say this: So often, when you see photos of the school year, you see the dramatic bits: the excursions, the plays, the BOOM days, the sports finals – all that extra-curricular stuff. But actually, the bulk of what we do at school everyday is… classroom teaching. Yet the ordinary, day-to-day classroom is often not ordinary at all. A class full of students at various levels of understanding and motivation can be a daunting task. Teaching students not only the basics, but extending and challenging students to think critically, to analyse abstract ideas, to learn and understand new concepts, to persevere when things get tough; this is not for the faint-hearted. There are hours of preparation and planning, marking and giving feedback. Students achieving, sharing a laugh and having fun in class as they learn is part of the ‘ordinary’ everyday. Sometimes it is a hard road to travel for both students, teachers and parents, but the rewards are long lasting and sweet. One thing I love about teaching at Belgrave Heights Christian School is the freedom to have fun in the classroom and to share the love of learning with students. To build good and positive relationships through ordinary, day-to-day classroom teaching is rewarding. One thing that has remained since the genesis of BHCS is the importance and value that is placed on having a good and positive relationship with God, with students in the day-to-day teaching of content. Anyway… back to the classroom for me.” – IVAN SESKIS –

Teacher, Head of Senior School, 2010–present day. Parent 2011–present


Is Christian education an oxymoron? “…I remember it vividly… as a student, standing in front of an education class, making the argument that ‘Christian education is an oxymoron’. Don’t get me wrong, I was Christian, and a big believer in education. I just didn’t think Christian and education could possibly go together. Christian faith was all about otherscentredness and self-sacrifice, and education was driven by a state agenda that was all about rankings and putting yourself first. I spent my high-school years at a Christian school. I was, by most accounts, a model Christian student. A youth leader at my church, I was school-captain in Year 12, and even received an award or two in my final year. My first-hand experience of Christian education was positive. I knew there were teachers that believed in me, I had some great friends and a family who would do anything for me. My parents had really sacrificed to send me to a Christian school. I don’t think I knew, at the time, how good I had it and how formative a Christian education was for my identity. It was during my university years that I started to realise the breadth of human experience I hadn’t been exposed to. The world was a far broader and more complex place than I had realised. There were many ways of living that I knew nothing of and many ideas that I had never given thought to. I remember one day coming out of a lecture convinced that I was a communist, feeling really guilty about it, and even thinking that Jesus was probably a communist too. I remember thinking that lots of people in my lectures would probably like Jesus, but religion kind of got in the way of that. I was so interested in this new world of ideas that I ended up leaving my behavioural neuroscience course to go on and study world religions, sociology, philosophy, theology and eventually to start a church designed for the ‘irreligious’. It would be a number of years before I would come back to work in education. 176

My first teaching job was in a government school. Even after doing my teacher placement at Belgrave Heights, I was still convinced that Christian education was an oxymoron. I remember having an email exchange with the principal, Mr Andy Callow. At the time, his arguments weren’t enough to persuade me, but now, as I read back over the email chain, I am shocked at how much I agreed with him. I need to try things before I’m convinced. Convinced that I could be an agent of transformation in the state-education system, I stuck at it for a number of years. Eventually I realised many problems came with working in that system. It was a big bureaucracy with a lot of red-tape. It took a long time to get little things done. The system didn’t encourage you to share your life with students, instead you needed to keep your professional distance. After a series of attempts at really wanting to do something innovative and radical, I realised that there was something missing in that government school. The school lacked heart. It was so big, politicised and unionised, that students could easily fall through the cracks. There had to be a better way. Today, I’m excited to say, you will struggle to find a more vocal champion for Christian education than me. After working at Belgrave Heights Christian School for the last eighteen months, I have experienced such generosity, humility, joy and compassion that I can never look back. My imagination has been awakened with endless possibilities and I have so much hope for what the future may bring. It won’t surprise me to spend the rest of my life championing the cause of Christian education – and none of it would have happened without the lives and stories of the courageous and heroic people that have gone before us at Belgrave Heights Christian School.” – DAVE HUGHES –

Philosophy Teacher and Head of Learning and Innovation, 2015–present


Steve, in class, on the basketball court and in the staff room.


That’s Steve on the left, down the front

Moustache and a black eye “…it was in the middle of a very successful ‘Movember’ when I received the call from Belgrave Heights Christian School that I’d been selected for an interview. I then faced an age-old dilemma that many a man has faced… to shave or not to shave. At that time I was also sporting a large black eye, so I decided that it would be best to shave. The day of the interview arrived, and when I met Andy Callow and Lance Davidson I was surprised, delighted and slightly disappointed to see a fine set of handlebars growing on Lance’s upper lip (disappointed that I had decided to shave). I can remember the first words to exit my mouth were ‘Let me begin by apologising for my face!”, then going on to explain to them the circumstances through which it had come about. I can honestly say that I’ve never apologised for my face before, nor have I been interviewed by a man with such a ridiculous moustache. BHCS isn’t like other places. BHCS is an accepting, academic, bushy, beautiful, creative, caring, dedicated, dazzling, eccentric, exciting, friendly, faithful, grace-filled, Godly, happy, holistic, individual, intelligent, jocular, jubilant, kind, Kingdom-seeking, loving, lively, marvellous, magnanimous, nature-loving, nourishing, open, obedient, peaceful, patient, quirky, quenching, respectful, relaxed, safe, steadfast, terrific, talented, unique, united, vigilant, virtuous, whacky, wonderful, youthful, yearning, zesty and zippy place. A place that even welcomes those who can’t think of adjectives beginning with ‘x’! BHCS is a place I’m glad to be.” – STEVE KELLY –

PE Teacher and Sports Coordinator, 2011–present


Even the smallest sprout is reaching for the sky It’s 8:52am in the Junior School – there’s rows and rows of new-growth humanitrees, from Prep seedlings to Year Four saplings swaying and jittering within a hedgerow of parents. Morning prayers settle this seething grove like a windbreak. Soon, in the rich social soil of classrooms there will be the sunlight of literacy, the H2O of science, and fertilisers of faith and French and maths and art. By the end of the day some will have wilted, and others, bloomed. But every one of them with stick legs, branching minds and budding hearts, will have grown (just that tiny bit) up! – CAMERON SEMMENS –

Parent of 2 students since 2013. Poet-in-residence 2016



I would never miss this “…as a parent, one of my highlights of the BHCS calendar year is Celebration Night. We arrive on a typical balmy Melbourne December evening; there is a palpable excitement as the tired students arrive with a renewed vigour… it’s holidays. We deliver the kids to their respective class teachers and find ourselves a seat and trade pleasantries with familiar faces around us. The evening begins with the MC duo opening in prayer. We are treated to a concert style delivery from the primary students as they sing, wiggle, dance and perform to a variety of songs. Parents around us laugh and cheer as they catch the eye of an excited student. The Middle School students deliver a dramatic piece on the meaning of Christmas and the birth of our Lord and Saviour. The staff contribute a musical item and showcase their talent. The evening proceeds with the honouring of the school’s brightest academics and questionably the highest honour, that of the Christian Spirit awards. Students are acknowledged for their involvement and development in the school’s active and vibrant ‘enviro’ projects. Invited special guests and dignitaries offer a contribution through the giving of scholarships and awards. The evening culminates in a colourful, creative and thought-provoking offering from the school’s resident chaplain, Mr Crawley. The evening transitions to the ‘Rose Ceremony’ where the current Year 12 students are dressed sharply in their skinny leg pants and pin-striped shirts. A variety of teenage fashion, paired with the obligatory high heels, is delivered a rose by the shy, awkward Preps. There are smiles, sighs and giggles. The Dux of the school is awarded and honoured. The evening ends with a wonderfully created multimedia presentation showcasing the year’s ‘highlights’. This is met with delight and celebration from the primary school students, where with the exuberance of youth they jump, dance and sing. What a pleasure to witness.


All in all, Celebration Night is exactly as the name suggests. A wonderful celebration of the variety of talent, personality, heart, character and strength of our school community. The Lord is centred and honoured, and I for one would never miss this annual event.” – YOLANDA COX –

Parent of three students since 2011. Current Board Member


In the end “…I remember… being ridden down the school driveway on a bicycle, happy and safe in my father’s arms while around us the world burned. …For me… this encapsulates my experience of BHCS – the journey has been at times joyous, mad and precarious. But it has turned out well in the end.” – ADRIEN MARCH –

Founding student 1983, graduated Grade 6 in 1989 Her three children currently attend the secondary school


Adrien with her parents Darryl and Lyn Thompson.


When the hot air balloon landed on the oval... see page 75.





Belgrave Heights Christian School Total Enrolments


How This School Began by


one of the two founders of BHCS

Part 1.

Important pre-history for Belgrave Heights Christian School – the beginning of the Christian Schools movement In the early 1950s, Dr Jack Upsdell MD with Rev ET Brailley and Mr Hogben from the world of commerce, met in Adelaide to pray concerning a vision for Christian schools across Australia. The Christian Educational Fellowship was formed and Jack travelled around Australia seeking to enthuse parents with the vision. The committee wrote a book titled ‘A Call to Christian People’ which was posted to parents across Australia, emphasising their dream that all churches should aim to establish a Christian School. I received a copy of this book after corresponding with Jack, who subsequently visited Sunshine. Rev James McComb and Mr David Jones, a commercial artist, joined me on a local committee in Sunshine after God had gave me a verse from Psalm 84:11. ‘For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those that walk uprightly.’ The school commenced in February, 1982 with 7 students quickly increasing to 25. I met with the local State School Inspector and Delwynne resulting in the School being fully registered with the Registered Schools Board in 1982.


Since the school occupied UCA property it was officially under the umbrella of the UCA until 2005 when it was agreed that it be placed under the charge of the Lutheran School System, still retaining the name Sunshine Christian School with an enrolment of 90 students. Early in the 1980s the Lord led me, with the help of Mr Brian Bayston of McCracken & McCracken solicitors and WJ Bell & Sons Estate Agency, to carry out the sale of the three blocks of land, for a sizable sum which minimally helped Sunshine Christian School and subsequently to a greater extent, Belgrave Heights Christian School.


Part 2.

The very beginnings of Belgrave Heights Christian School Lynette Thompson, my daughter, was impressed with the Sunshine experience and enthused caring Christian mothers in Belgrave Heights to catch the vision for a Christian school for their families. Having approached me for professional help, I offered much prayer to our gracious God and He gave me clear guidance from the Bible: ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ Hebrews 11:1. A Steering Committee was formed in 1982 and I kept meeting with the enthusiastic mothers. They were looking everywhere for property and engaging in strong prayerfulness. Concurrently, the Presbyterian owned camp site at Marunari, Wattle Valley Road in Belgrave Heights, was being seriously discussed by the Presbyterian Christian Education and Nurture Committee (CENC) of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria (PCV). When an open meeting of church members was held on the property, one suggestion made by Mrs Pat Hanna, wife of Mr Bob Hanna, was that it could make a good site for a Presbyterian co-ed school! Without knowing this, I prayerfully approached Rev Jim Flavel, Chairman of the CENC, regarding the possibility of using the multi-purpose hall for a Primary day school. Along with others, Jim and Mr Hugh Falconer favoured the idea of Christian schools. Lynette, others from Truth, Liberation and Concern, as well as people from other denominations lent practical and prayerful support. We all knew that: ‘except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.’ A public meeting was held jointly with the CENC of the PCV and the local school Steering Committee. It was evident that God was in the whole venture and the CENC agreed to allow the school to use the property. 192

An amendment to the planning scheme was passed by the Sherbrooke Shire Council in February, 1983, and a year later the State Planner’s approval was announced in the Government Gazette. 15 students attended school for their first day’s instruction on Tuesday 1 February, 1983, with Miss Liane Barry as the first teacher. After 18 months Miss Margaret Hulls succeeded her and remained with the school for nearly 25 years. (Interestingly, while I was advertising the position in 1982, I rang Mr Andy Callow in Adelaide, following Mr Darryl Thompson’s suggestion but couldn’t follow through because Andy’s teacher training was, at that time, exclusively officially secondary!) We had so many wonderful people helping us! Rev Warwick Davidson came on to the School Council in the early years and the late Mr Bob Macdonald was the school accountant for 10 years. Moore’s Solicitors enabled us to become an Incorporated Association from 28 September, 1988. Amongst all those who contributed to the School Constitution, the school acknowledges legal help from the late Mr Bob Hanna, Mr Brian Bayston, Rev Grant Lawry and Mr Murray Baird. We were deeply thankful for Mr George Harvey’s building alterations required by the Health Commission and the Shire of Sherbrooke, approved in January and the first day of February, 1983. District School Inspector Mr Laurie McMahon wrote a pleasing report on 7 March resulting in the school gaining full registration on 28 March 1983. To God be the Glory!



In memorandum

Isabel Bell 1928 – 2016

As a school community we are mourning the loss of one of our most determined school founders, an active community member for over thirty years, and a great-grandparent to some of our current students. It is sad that Isabel died in July as this book neared completion. She would have loved reading over these stories and remembering especially those challenging early years at BHCS. Above all, she would have rejoiced again at these reminders of how God has been all-loving and ever-faithful throughout the school’s short history.

There are more things wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. – Tennyson






Profile for Belgrave Heights Christian School

Heights of Hope  

Snapshots of a school from its hesitant budding to exuberant blooming!

Heights of Hope  

Snapshots of a school from its hesitant budding to exuberant blooming!


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