My Story: Stuart Todd
With a journey that spans from the classrooms of New Zealand to the MasterChef kitchen, Stuart Todd brings a passion for teaching and cooking to the classroom in his new role at Carinity Education Shalom.
It’s his varied background and desire to make a difference in the lives of students that attracted him to the Townsville school. We spoke to Stuart to find out what makes him tick – and what makes a great teacher.
“My first-grade teacher, Bronwyn Anderson, was my inspiration for becoming a teacher. She was a wonderful lady,” Stuart reflects.
“We had a chance encounter when I was working at the local supermarket as a teenager and she said to me, ‘You have such a positive, can-do attitude; you would be a great teacher.’ So, I went to her class for work experience and thought, ‘I really think this is for me’.”
On graduating, Stuart found himself teaching a prep class alongside his mentor. He went on to work with Bronwyn for four-and-a-half years. This collaboration allowed Stuart to witness first-hand the power of teaching and solidified his commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of students.
Stuart’s journey took an unexpected turn when he ventured into the culinary world as a contestant on MasterChef New Zealand. His love for food, cultivated through years of cooking experiments with his mother, motivated him to apply for the television program.
“I was very inquisitive about food. I researched and tried to master different types of food each week,” Stuart shares. This combination of curiosity and motivation saw him claim third place in the competition.
Even while dabbling in the food industry, Stuart remained focused on improving the lives of children. He made the most of his new-found profile to give back to the local community.
“I did some live shows and fundraising events for the school and local kindergarten. It was quite a juggling act that saw me balancing television ads and newspaper articles while returning to the classroom,” he explains.
With an Australian wife and a strong desire for their children to grow up around family, life eventually led Stuart to relocate to Australia, where he secured a job as a food technology teacher.
The transition allowed him to embrace a slower pace and his career evolved as he opened and developed a new Food Technology Centre consisting of a new kitchen and a fully operational cafe at a larger college, before moving into the student wellbeing space.
It was this new experience in wellbeing that inspired him to take on the challenge of his current position as Head of Secondary school at Carinity Education Shalom. The diversity of each day is something that continues to motivate Stuart.
“No two days are the same. I oversee all aspects of running the school, from curriculum to wellbeing.” And, of course, he still occasionally pops his head back into the kitchen to teach hospitality.
For Stuart, it’s the holistic approach to education at Shalom that appeals to him. The school ensures a wrap-around support network for students and their families, which includes chaplains, teachers, and youth workers.
“We go far beyond education. We pick students up from their doorstep and bus them to school, we give them breakfast, we drop their report cards to their homes,” Stuart explains.
Stuart cherishes the connections he has made at Shalom, where the staff are dedicated to the wellbeing of every student. This investment extends beyond academics, creating an environment where positive interactions and smiling faces are indicators of success.
“The passion of the teachers shines through to the students because when we are excited about something, they get excited,” he says.
As Carinity Education Shalom expands, Stuart takes pride in witnessing the growth of both the school and its students.
“2024 is our first year offering Year 12,” he says, highlighting the progress made at the school since his arrival two years ago.
Ultimately, it’s seeing the impact that he and his fellow teachers make that gives Stuart fulfilment in the role.
“The beauty of working at Shalom is that you plant a seed hoping you will see a difference. When you notice you have made that difference, it is very rewarding,” he says.
“I start work at 8am and within five minutes I already know I’ve had an impact because of their smiling faces and that positive interaction.”