Q&A with Mrs Gigi Thiele, incoming ECC College Principal

When Mrs Thiele begins her role as College Principal at Ellenbrook Christian College (ECC) in Term Three, the business of schools will be all-consuming; new relationships to build, many meetings around student outcomes and community engagement will take place and the process of installing a new leader for a new chapter of the College’s future will take precedence.  As such, we thought it would be helpful to ask a few of the questions that might cross your mind when a new leader joins our team – particularly when that leader loves French food and uses phrases like ‘joie de vivre’ and ‘je ne sais quoi’ in their everyday parlance!

1. What excites you in life? What is a great passion of yours?

“Life itself – it’s exciting! We live in an amazing place and are so blessed. I am so thankful for God’s provision and presence in all I see and do.

My greatest passion would be people. I am energised around people. I love catching a glint of greatness that they’re not even aware of and drawing it out of them. I love seeing people conquer their fear, face challenges, and triumph in faith.

My other greatest passion is my family – I have a fabulous husband of 38 years, and we have the most incredible son, who’s 22 years old and blows me away with his faith, vision, kindness and commitment to serve as called.

I also really enjoy getting out on my stand-up paddle and being surprised by dolphins and sting rays on the Canning River. Also, I’ve recently stepped back into performing – I have joined the Tivoli and just completed the “Let’s Do Las Vegas” show.

2. Where does your faith come from? Can you tell me a little about your Christian walk?

“The chorus of the worship song pretty much sums up where my faith comes from:

“an anthem I have always known, A song that’s always been in me,

All glory and honour, dominion and power, to You,

My heart can’t help but sing, With all of Heaven roar

Forever echo Holy is the Lord.”

I don’t have enough space to tell the whole story, but I knew of God’s love and protection from a little girl. I grew up in a family with a traditional Catholic faith, but something in me knew there was more.

In Year 12 in Northam, I went to an Outreach Weekend (not knowing then that that was what it was) and ended up giving my heart to Christ. That decision didn’t go down too well with the family, and while I wasn’t allowed to go to a Protestant Church, I was allowed to go to Youth Group, where I was discipled by a married couple who taught at the school, who taught me to read my Bible and pray every day – even when I didn’t want to!

I am so thankful for them!

Over the years, I’ve been involved in all aspects of ministry; my favourite was being the Worship Director and being a co-senior pastor with my husband. We also were network leaders, overseeing eight churches, mostly in country WA, and this is where I delighted in being part of raising and releasing leaders – I did this at the same time as starting a CaRE (Curriculum and Reengagement in Education) School, completing my Masters and together with my husband, raising our son. Yes, busy times. We are currently fellowshipping at Kalamunda Church of Christ.

3. How does faith interact with schooling?

“I love that at Christian Schools, we can openly talk about our faith and bring that into teaching practice. It’s not just about demonstrating grace and loving people. It’s also about bringing God into everything we do – looking for opportunities to bring God’s word into practice.

Yes, our foundation must be firm, and yes, we teach the WA Curriculum, and yes, we are SCSA (School Curriculum and Standards Authority) and NGSR (Non-Government School Regulation) compliant; but we can bring the bigger picture of knowledge and understanding coming from God, and bring the Christian lens to everything.

Our students and families get to witness faith in action, and that is exciting. I believe that education truly is the power with which we can change the world, but knowledge without wisdom, knowledge without understanding, is only one part of an education.

In order for us to do that, we need to have our own vibrant walk with Jesus. Yes, there are seasons of sadness for each one of us, but in the midst of each season, we lift our eyes heavenward, we set our hearts on things above, and we say yes to faith.

4. What would your hope be for your first twelve months at Ellenbrook Christian College?

“Not knowing who I’m going to be working with or what has been happening with staff and community, and coming in with limited insight, I would hope that in twelve months’ time, we are welded together, we are all in step with what God is doing in, through and for us.

I hope that we will have built trust in and with each other. That our leaders are confident, visionary and trusted. The staff are inspired and love their role, and our families are connected and interconnected.

5. You are quintessentially French, so I’m curious to know what makes French people so distinct in their outlook on life…

“What I love about the French psyche is they really don’t care and are comfortable speaking their mind, and if you don’t speak French, that’s not their problem because they do. They genuinely have a ‘joie de vivre’ and that certain ‘ je ne sais quoi’. Fun fact: My family goes back to the 1440s in Paris, and I have translated the 18-generation book into English.”

Finally, when our staff have Long Service Leave and travel to Paris, what should we buy at a patisserie to understand French culture?

“Much as I love Paris, I went to university in Besançon, in the Jura mountains and their regional cheese is called Comté.

The best cake in that region is Forêst Noire and they make the best chocolat chaud.

In Paris, I’d go to the Rue Mouffetard and have a chausson aux pommes” [apple turnover for Australians – except better!], and in Nice, you can’t go past Fenecchio’s, the wonderful ice cream shop in Rue de la Poissonerie – they even have cactus flavour!

Me? Good old rum and raisin!

Wow! staff can expect something special when they meet Mrs Thiele at Celebration Day on July 24, 2023!

Mrs Thiele with her husband, Rodney and their son, Steven.
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