WHEN Queen of Apostles primary school principal Peter Stower discovered major building work on his Stafford campus would be held up by the recent wet weather and Brisbane floods he turned to nearby Mt Maria College, Enoggera, for help – knowing he would not be disappointed.
Peter, an old boy from Marist College Ashgrove, knew all about the Marist heritage of family spirit and was relying on that family tradition to provide the solution he needed to house his Year 1 and 2 students.
And it wasn’t just the Marist family he was relying on.
His twin brother Mark just happens to be principal at Mt Maria.
Mark said the secondary school was more than happy to help.
“Being a Catholic school in the Marist tradition, one of the key characteristics of Marist education and the way of being Marist is very much that family spirit so in this time of need when the Queen of Apostles classrooms were not available, when we received that phone call to say could we help we certainly responded,” he said.
“To be able to help out my brother was also something special.”
Peter’s Queen of Apostles school had undertaken the refurbishment of 16 classrooms over the 2010 Christmas break but due to the wet conditions, followed by the January floods, the Year 1 and 2 classrooms weren’t ready and the school had to search for accommodation elsewhere.
“Fortunately I had spoken to Mark during the Christmas holidays and said it might be a possibility – what do you think?
“Mark was able to allow us to come and use the assembly centre (at Mt Maria Enoggera campus) which was ideal. “So for the first week of the school year we had to move 120 children and our staff over (there).”
Peter said the week proved an enjoyable adventure for Queen of Apostles students although there was a little confusion.
Mark and Peter are identical twins and the primary students had trouble telling the two apart.
Mark said when he went to welcome the young students to his campus they thought he was having a joke with them.
“When I went over there to say hello, they all stood up and said ‘Good morning, Mr Stower’ and I explained to them I wasn’t their Mr Stower,” he said.
He said the primary school students found it difficult to understand.
“They thought Mr Stower was telling jokes or having a bit of a gag with them or had changed his name tag and so forth so it was a very difficult concept for the Grade Ones and Twos and even the staff at times to get their head around that there were two of us and that we were both principals,” he said.
Mark joked that his confidence in his identity suffered a little during the week.
“The younger students when they saw me would say that I wasn’t the real Mr Stower,” he said.
He said in another strange twist of fate both he and his brother Peter began their teaching careers on the Enoggera campus.
Each undertook teaching work experience in their later years at Marist College Ashgrove, with Mark ultimately choosing a secondary school career while Peter chose primary education.
Mark said he began his teaching career at the Enoggera campus in 1981 when the site was called Marcellin College and catered for boys from upper primary to junior high school.
“Peter was also teaching at Marcellin College in Grade Six so both of us were here and, because it was our first year, no one could tell us apart,” he said. “I drew the short straw and had to grow a moustache.”
The brothers have an easy banter and Mark joked he could watch Peter teach from his staff-room window.
Mark said that, for both the Marcellin boys and parents, it must have been confusing to have the Stower brothers on the same site.
“Even though they were two separate schools in the sense the primary and secondary didn’t mix together, they were in such close proximity that it would have been confusing,” he said.
It wasn’t many years before the brothers went their separate ways, Peter to St Dympna’s at Aspley and then on to be assistant principal for religious education at St Columba’s at Wilston; St William’s, Grovely; and his first role as principal at St Sebastian’s, Yeronga; then on to St Kevin’s, Geebung; before moving to Queen of Apostles about five years ago.
Mark’s career has seen him work at Shalom College, Bundaberg, and St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace (Brisbane), before spending seven years as principal at The Cathedral College, Rockhampton.
He said his appointment to Mt Maria College two years ago came at an exciting time in the college history.
“It’s a time of growth and amalgamation onto one campus, a lot of changes, so it’s been an interesting journey to come back after almost 30 years from being a first-time teacher to principal,” he said.
Mark and Peter have many things in common, including a particular determination to ensure twins in their own schools are always treated as individuals.
Being the second eldest in a family of five children they have a few dos-and-don’ts suggestions for parents and school communities.
First on the list of don’ts is to not dress twins identically, although their own parents followed that route when they were younger.
“I’m not sure if that was a novelty,” Mark said. Peter said their parents however did make the choice to have them placed in separate classes during their early education although the decision should be made with the individuals involved in mind.
“I think this was a good thing for us to a certain extent as it allowed us to have a little bit of our own identity,” he said.
He said that was one of the struggles of being an identical twin.
“Because no one could tell you apart you tended to just be known by your surname rather than your Christian name and that was difficult at times,” he said.
Peter said he and Mark were competitive in everything they did and had similar abilities.
Mark piped in here to tell his brother he was “much brighter at school” – a comment that sparked a laugh from Peter who said one of the interesting school stories involved their football coaches who couldn’t tell them apart.
“I had to wear a bit of ribbon around my football shorts so they could tell us apart because we were in the same position on the side of the scrum,” he said.
As teachers and now principals, Peter and Mark are adamant identical twins, as within their own family, should always be known as individuals in the school system.
That includes schools making every effort to find ways to tell them apart and use their Christian names, as with every other member of the large Catholic school family.
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