Meet Mrs Andrea Tewkesbury
Hello Mrs Tewkesbury, what’s your role at Sompting Abbotts?
Hi, I’m the school’s Head of Art and Design.
Where did you do your teaching qualifications?
I studied in the canton of Zug in Central Switzerland at the University of Teacher Education and gained a BA Hons in Education. Teaching qualifications are different in Switzerland as you take a broad range of subjects, as opposed to specializing, and it’s a longer course than in the UK. Mine also included PE (I did skiing instruction), art, RE and music.
So you’re originally Swiss?
That’s right. I’m Swiss by birth and now have dual nationality. My first language was French as we lived in Lausanne. But later my father’s work took him to the German-speaking part of the country. Initially, I spoke a medley of French and Swiss-German and then switched to German. I learned English too. I went to a convent school with a superb English teacher and also studied it outside school through the Cambridge Proficiency system. I also later took the TEFL qualification.
Did you teach in Switzerland?
I did, in a Swiss primary school for two years, but I knew even before I graduated that I wanted to come to the UK. That was boyfriend-related! I also worked for American Express investigating card disputes and fraud cases for the German, Austrian and Swiss market. I decided to move here to Brighton to be with my boyfriend whom I had met in Worthing at a beach party as a foreign student when I was aged 19. A few years later I married him! Now both my children are bilingual – I’ve a son who is 15 and a daughter who is 10. We also still go to Switzerland quite a lot. A second language is a gift I think,
How long have you taught at Sompting Abbotts?
Over 20 years! I started at the school in 1996 teaching Year 2 and taught all subjects except PE and including music. I’ve also taught Reception and Year 1. I was in the Pre-Prep for 21 years and loved every minute of it.
Why did you opt for the Head of Art position in 2017?
Well because art was always my strong point, special passion and my favourite subject to teach. In the Pre-Prep my class always got a larger share of art!
What do you especially enjoy about teaching art?
The pure creativity: the fact that the children can express themselves as they want and there’s no right or wrong. I don’t have silence in the studio – the atmosphere is bubbly and the children can be individuals. It’s a space where they can be a bit noisy and spontaneous. It’s so nice to see a child shine in art who might not be academic.
For me, as art teacher, not being restricted by a curriculum is also wonderful. Of course there are mediums such as drawing, painting and sculpture, and art and craft and design techniques we have to cover but how I do this is up to me and I love that. I spend hours looking at books and the Internet and coming up with projects that are tailored to the children.
What do you do outside school?
We ski a great deal – I adore it. I skiied so much as a child – every weekend – as the slopes were 10 minutes away and my aunt had a chalet. My children love it too. We are a very outdoorsy family and go camping together a lot. We go to Switzerland every winter for skiing. Much as I love the sea, I truly love and miss the mountains. I also absolutely love cooking – I do a lot with my son and we’re always trying out new recipes.
What makes SA special for you?
The size, atmosphere, the location … I love the fact that we have these fabulous grounds and the freedom – the fact that I can say ‘Look at the glorious day outside – let’s not be stuck in here – let’s go down to the pond and see what’s growing and do land art’. Knowing each child so well – it’s amazing because it’s a big family here and you have a special relationship with the children, They really are individuals here, not a number or just another pupils. You can teach so much better when you really understand a child. The staff are wonderful here – all of them are dedicated and such supportive colleagues. And I really enjoy the ethos which makes for such polite pupils.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I have a terrible fear of heights! It’s strange – but if it’s a high bridge or building for example, I simply physically can’t do it, I’m literally paralysed. Luckily it doesn’t affect me when skiing in the mountains!