Senior Physics and Science Teacher
Mentone Grammar’s Senior Physics and Science Teacher, Trevor Stevens, grew up in a large family of seven children. He was raised in a small South African town called Amanzimtoti, which is translated to “Sweet waters” in the Zulu language. “I had a very charmed childhood,” Trevor reflects, “as kids, we were sent out to play in the morning and told to come back for dinner. We often spend the day at the surf beach, or exploring the surrounding sugar cane farms barefooted, which wasn’t particularly smart, considering there were plenty of snakes in the area,” Trevor laughs.
Growing up with such a large family meant that finances were tight, but Trevor’s Mother was exceptionally skilled at budgeting. “My Mum was a very good seamstress and made dresses for the local community. People would often visit our house to have their school uniforms made by my Mum. It wasn’t a very big town, so everyone knew that you could buy school uniforms commercially, or Mrs Stevens would make them for half the price. This was a great way for my Mum to make some additional pocket money, while my Dad was working as a Clerk on the railways.” At 15 , Trevor decided to make his own small income and applied for a job at a local restaurant, “It didn’t last very long” he admits sheepishly, “ I ate too much food, so they let me go!”
At school, Trevor was a passionate student, who enjoyed all aspects of learning, “I was fascinated by the stars, curious about electricity and loved hands-on experimentation in class. I suppose I was destined to become a Physics teacher,” Trevor laughs. “In addition to academics, my whole life revolved around sport, particularly Cricket, Rugby and Hockey.” When asked about any challenging aspects of school, Trevor thinks for a minute before chuckling, “The hardest part for me was having to learn two languages. It was a prerequisite in South African Schools, and I found this very difficult, I just wanted to do extra Science classes!”
After leaving secondary school, Trevor completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Chemistry and Physics, but once complete, he knew that his real passion was in the classroom. “I was so thankful for my time at Kingsway High School, and for the care that my teachers and coaches placed on my education. I wanted to give back to my community.” So, after completing a Diploma in Higher Education, Trevor began his career in teaching.
Not long after starting his dream role as a Science teacher, Trevor was conscripted into a two-year National Service. “I was 23 years old and had a wife and baby girl to support. It was challenging having to leave my family.” In the first year of service, male teachers were required to complete an Officers course so that they could run a Cadet program at their school. “It was tough,” Trevor admits, “the program was designed to teach us how to be strong leaders, and it certainly wasn’t easy training. I was also stationed very far from home, so I seldom saw my family.” The following year, Trevor applied for an Operations role, which meant he could be closer to his family and could utilise his newfound skills in leadership. “My son was born during this time, so I was thankful to be closer to home.”
After leaving the Army, Trevor returned to Kingsway High School, this time, as a teacher. His Officer training meant that he was also placed in charge of the Cadet Program, and he pursued his passion for sports through coaching. “I wanted to immerse myself in the School culture, just like I did when I was a student.” Trevor worked at his old high school for three years, before his life changed once again in 1985. “My Brother in Law, John Mason, had immigrated to Australia and spoke fondly of his teaching job at Mentone Grammar. I had a lot of respect for him, and Australian culture, so we decided to seriously think about moving.” At the time, Mentone Grammar was looking for Physics teachers, so Trevor applied for the role, “I still remember my phone interviews with Principal Keith Jones. Because of the time difference between South Africa and Australia, I had to set my alarm for 3.00am, for three days in a row. At the end of the third interview, I was offered the job.” Things started to move quickly after this, “my Year 12s finished their final exams on Thursday, on Friday I was on a plane to Melbourne with my family, and on Monday I commenced my new role.”
Despite the huge transition of moving to a new country, Trevor instantly felt at home at Mentone Grammar. “I found the culture at Mentone to be very similar to my School in South Africa. Cadets and sports were a huge aspect of both schools, and I found the similarities comforting.”
“I really value the range of opportunities I have been offered at Mentone Grammar, both academically and in co-curricular activities. I love how I can teach my students about the world of Physics in the classroom, then, coach them on the sporting fields at Keysborough, and guide them through a Cadet Camp at Puckapunyal. These opportunities have led to long-lasting relationships within the Community.”
In 1992 Trevor was promoted to Coordinator of Jones House, where he remained for 16 years; “I loved this position; one of my strengths is caring for others and building relationships, and that was at the heart of this role.” It seemed only fitting that Trevor’s kind nature and strong leadership would lead him into the role of Head of Frogmore Campus in 2009. This was met with great celebration from students and staff. “I enjoyed the challenge of this role. The Senior students are fantastic, and their friendly banter constantly made me laugh.” After six years, Trevor decided to transition back into full-time teaching; “my passion is teaching Physics, leading Cadets and coaching sport, I have loved all my roles at the School, but this is my true calling, so at the end of 2014, I knew it was time to return to the classroom.” Trevor’s time as Campus Head left a deep impact on our students, and at the end-of-year assembly in 2014, he received a spontaneous standing ovation.
After nearly 37 years of teaching at Mentone Grammar, Trevor still gets up for work in the morning with a spring in his step. “I truly admire everything about this School, but I’m especially thankful for my incredible colleagues, fantastic students and supportive parents. Additionally, I admire our Principal, Mr Mal Cater – we both started working at Mentone Grammar on the same day in 1985, and it has been wonderful working alongside him. The Mentone Community is one of a kind, it’s what makes this School so great.”
For the next generation of students, his advice is simple. “My philosophy is to find something that you value and appreciate every day. Remain curious and keep being excited about life. I have always enjoyed work and school. And even after 37 years, I still get excited to meet my new class at the start of a year. It’s a privilege to teach students every day, and I’m proud to have dedicated my life to this profession.”
At the conclusion of our interview, a passing staff member stopped to gush, “Trevor is one of the best teachers around, a true legend. He is someone our students look up to, and our staff adore.” Mentone Grammar cherishes him indeed!
Author: Steph Kinnear