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Dominican charism inspires Margaret Lee

Dr Margaret Lee

Devoted educator: Margaret Lee is set to take up a research position with Brisbane Catholic Education.

AFTER a lifetime working in Queensland secondary schools, Margaret Lee is exchanging the classroom for research.

In January she will begin working for Brisbane Catholic Education executive director Pam Betts, liaising with universities for BCE.

“It’s going to be a bit of everything,” Margaret said.

“I’ll be researching and looking at innovative practices that are available out there that BCE could be capitalising on for students and staff.”

Margaret is qualified for the job, having spent 38 years teaching and supporting secondary school students or as a leader.

Born in Charleville in 1956, Margaret was Keith and Joan Ogden’s third of six children.

She attended St Mary’s School, which in those days included secondary education to Year 10.

In 1966 the family moved to Warwick and Margaret completed her education at Assumption College where she graduated as dux and school captain in 1972.

It was then off to the University of Queensland to study a Bachelor of Arts followed by a Diploma of Education, which she completed by 1976.

That same year Margaret also married husband John who, as fate would have it, was also from Charleville.

“I had actually known him while we lived in Charleville as he was a friend of my brother’s and we met again while I was at university although he had already completed his degree,” she said.

“It was the floods of 1974 and the place I was to move into at UQ was flooded and my brother ‘knew a place’ I could stay.”

The couple will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next year.

Margaret’s first position was at Springwood State High School in 1978 where she taught Japanese.

Although Japanese has become a passion for Margaret over the past 38 years, it wasn’t one of her first subject choices at university.

“I needed one more subject and so I rang Assumption College and they suggested I do Japanese,” she said.

Following the birth of her son Andrew in 1982 and daughter Mariana in 1984, Margaret moved to Corinda State High in 1987 where she spent three years as head of languages.

She had by now realised that the standard (of Japanese) being taught in Australia was appalling and, for the benefit of her own students, she began writing her own Japanese textbooks in 1988-89. 

Because these books were a higher standard than those available at the time it wasn’t long before other schools were requesting copies of Margaret’s texts.

“I ended up writing 14 text books in two series, Isshoni and Tsumiki,” she said.

“The Isshoni series catered for Year 7 to first-year university and the Tsumiki series for Year 7 to Year 10 students.

“Actually they have been well received even overseas where they have been used by several countries such as Japan to teach English in reverse.”

Last year Margaret also contributed a chapter to the book Towards the Intelligent Use of Liberty: Dominican Approaches in Education, just one of what is becoming a long list of personal and professional achievements.

Some of those include being a member of former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd’s Languages Strategy committee in 2012 and the BCE principal representative on the Archdiocesan Catholic Education Council from 2011-13.

Margaret’s love of Japan grew and she has made 23 trips to the country with students or teachers on exchange and for private trips with her family.

Those trips won’t necessarily end with her new position.

Her next trip will be from March 19-April 10 next year when she will take 19 girls to Japan “during the Cherry Blossom season”.

She is then going back in July with her family during “the flower festival” – something she hasn’t experienced yet.

“Kobe is Brisbane’s sister city and I was one of the first group of exchange teachers who travelled there around 1989,” she said.

Margaret’s career moved into Catholic education in 1998 as the deputy principal of Our Lady’s College, Annerley. 

In 2003 she was seconded to the deputy principalship of Carmel College before moving to Toowoomba to take up the role of principal at St Saviour’s College.

In 2007 she returned to Brisbane to the role of principal at San Sisto College, Carina, a Catholic secondary school in the Dominican tradition.

Margaret quickly embraced the Dominican charism.

“The Dominican charism is based on four key foci or pillars – study, prayer, community and service which are also the four pillars of the early Christian church,” she said.

“It’s a perfect charism for any school.”

Margaret said the strong focus on the notion of study and learning resonated with her and she was determined to complete her doctorate.

After some discernment and discussion with her mentor, she chose as her topic “The Institutionalisation of charism in a faith-based school: A case study in a school in the Dominican Tradition”.

After its completion, Margaret was invited to participate in a round-table discussion at the University of Oxford, where she presented a paper, as part of the Religion, Women and History conference. 

The paper on the role of Dominican charism in the forming of a relevant, contemporary, feminine spirituality in young women was just one of the diverse range of topics covered.

“I was able to network with professors from around the world,” Margaret said. 

She said one of the highlights of the three-day August 2015 conference was running into the former Master of the Dominican order Fr Timothy Radcliffe, at Blackfriars.

She believes all charisms provide benefits to schools, but the Dominican charism especially so.

“My dream would be for another Dominican school to be established in Brisbane, at the moment there are only two – San Sisto and St Martin’s at Carina,” she said.

“I think a charism such as the Dominican charism offers a wonderful bridge between contemporary society and our Catholic faith and Christian lived values.

“Students say that they love the pride that they feel in a school because of a particular charism, that pride translates as a deep attachment to the particular way they live as a Christian.”

Margaret plans on carrying her Dominican charism into her new position at BCE, a position she is eager to begin.

“I’m quite excited to be out of the school environment and into something different,” she said.

“I loved San Sisto. It was a community like no other. My whole life was committed to it but, after nine years, I am looking forward to new ventures.”

By Robin Williams

Written by: Staff writers
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