Into the Wild: Mrs. Catherine

Venturing into the literal wild, new staff leave the safety of their monkey-less roads and tackle the great unknown we call Woodstock. The Woodstocker caught up with some of them to chronicle the first chapter of their adventures.

“It seemed like it would be nice to move to India to the civilized world,” said Mrs. Catherine deSwardt, Grade 12 English teacher and counselor, about moving to India with her family from Zimbabwe.

She explained that one of the reasons she and her husband Mr. Robin Carter, the new AP Physics teacher, were drawn to Woodstock was because Zimbabwe was “in a very politically and economically stressful situation.”

Furthermore, she added, “You know we’ve got Amazon here. You can do online shopping; you can do all sorts of things in India that you cannot do in Zimbabwe.”

Another reason they were drawn to Woodstock was their love for nature.

“We are always drawn to the mountains,” she said.

She also shared her love for literature and physics: “At school, my two favorite subjects were English and physics, which is a weird combination.”

However, she explained that teaching English is not her sole profession.

“I’m first trained as a teacher, then as a counselor. I used to work in prison. I’ve worked in various psychiatric hospitals,” she said.

When asked about why she had lived in Zimbabwe despite being British, she replied, “I am British because I am married to my husband.”

She added, “I am a Zimbabwean citizen, but I had to renounce my citizenship when I became British because you cannot have two citizenships.”

She was born and raised in Zimbabwe and spent her whole childhood there. She had left the country for England for a long time, only to come back again for their children to “experience nature and learn about nature in the outdoors.”

In the aspect of the outdoor lifestyle, she felt that Woodstock was quite similar to Zimbabwe, giving more incentive for her to join.

Once they were here, she said that she felt very welcomed. She mentioned that much of it was credited to the staff retreat.

“When we arrived, [the staff] made us a meal and took us to the bazaar,” she said. “People were very welcoming and friendly.”

Furthermore, she said that she appreciates this environment where her children are welcomed and could potentially stop by her classroom and speak with older students. 

She explained, “In the previous school that we worked, staff members couldn’t have their children at school at all, because it was a high school.”

When asked about her future, she said that she was “looking forward to getting to know the students better,” and for them to comfortably talk with her.

On that note, she hopes for a steady integration into the Woodstock community.

“I’m just looking forward to not being so new because once you settle into a place and everyone knows you, it just becomes easier,” she said.

However, she also mentioned the hardship of trying to engage in social activities, due to an already congested schedule.

Having to dedicate lots of time to her family, she finds it difficult to dedicate time to social activities.

In terms of her goals, she expressed her desire to learn from the community and the students.

“True wisdom is the willingness to learn even from children,” she said, quoting an African writer.

Photo by Mikko Aoki Liu

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