Teacher Feature: Gregg Cornwall


Tierney Brennan , Online Specials Editor

A special “getting to know you” interview with Gregg Cornwall, a new Sr. and Jr. English teacher who moved here this past May from Australia. We take a look at contrasts between American and Australian schools, culture, slang, jokes, and… seafood?

Reporter: How long have you been teaching?
Cornwall: In December it’ll be four years.

R: What differences do you notice here at DHS?

C: Everything is completely different. In Australia, at my school, I had eight different classes. We had a timetable every two weeks, so you would see a different class every week. Nothing is the same in a two week period. It definitely has its positives and negatives. Sometimes I would only see a class every two weeks, so it was kind of counterproductive I think. I like the continuity here. I like seeing the same faces everyday, and what they have learned the day before is fresh in their mind.

R: What drew you to English as opposed to other subjects?

C: Initially I was a social studies teacher, so I taught geography, business, legal studie
s, and a ton of other stuff as well. I kind of fell into English – I have a business background, and I have a lot of academic and professional writing experience in a business environment. Writing is a strong point of mine, and I taught English for two years in Australia, then applied for my English job here. I needed to do a content test to make sure that I could pass so I could teach English here. I can actually teach social sciences as well, but there wasn’t a job here for it. I think as far as what made me choose it [English] is that I like writing. I like professional writing, I like proposals, and research outlines, and emails; stuff that helps you communicate from one person to another.

R: How are you liking Durango?

C: It’s different, I came from a city of five hundred people, so it’s an adjustment. I’m enjoying it. It’s a very positive change. But there are some things that are frustrating about living in a small town, especially in a snow area. I’m not familiar with a snowy environment. For example, today my windscreen was scheduled to be changed because it had a big massive crack in it, and the person cancelled
because there was two inches of snow on the ground. It’s that that drives me nuts. That sort of last minute cancellation – now we’ve got to wait a week before they start scheduling again. It’s Durango time, I guess, like the “eh it’ll get done sometime I guess”. It [Durango culture]  fits well with my personality, but stuff like that takes a bit of getting used to.

R: What caused you to move here?

C: My wife’s from Bayfield, so she grew up in Bayfield, went to Bayfield high school… We wanted to move back to the area for about 10 years, and I needed to find work. Work was crucial. A lot of people want to move back here, especially having left. My wife hated it as a kid; growing up she couldn’t wait to get out of there, but now that we’re in a different phase of our lives, it’s a place we want to be. It’s a nice place. We didn’t want to come back here without a job, because work
is hard to find. So we ha
d to wait until we got that opportunity, and here it is, which is kinda nice.

R: What do you miss from home

C: Seafood. I really miss seafood. Oh, and my family, my family is there. I really miss seafood because seafood here is not seafood. Having California roots, now we’re a landlocked state, so it’s very difficult to get seafood. There isn’t a lot else, I’ve been back and forth to the States many times. This is my 11th trip back here. I’ve had the opportunity to acclimatize to it, there’s no culture shock. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while, too. It’s still new, living here, because we only moved six months ago, but there are some things I miss. My sense of humor is different, and some things that I intend on being a joke, I get a blank look. We have a different sense of humor. I struggle at times with that. That’s something that I miss, being able to be comfortable talking without having to think in two brains. Even with language, it’s converting celsius to fahrenheit, kilograms to pounds. It’s driving on the opposite side of the road.  It’s using language that is Australian specific versus going through that translation process every time. It’s almost like English is a different language because it’s a completely different dialect. We both speak the same language, but there’s a lot of things that I say over there that I don’t say here. A lot of words and abbreviations. I shorten a lot of words and I speak a whole lot quick
er [in Australia]. Here, I have to stop, slow down, expand my sentences out, and pronounce everything properly. If I speak weakly, people don’t understand.

R: Any unique things about the school or the town that stand out?

C: the students, the teachers. They’re positive. I came from a very negative school culture, and I like how the students are respectful. I like how they ask how your day is, I like how they say thank you as they walk out the door. I came from a very low ability school, and with that came behavioral issues and all that stuff that comes with the poor behavior. Kids swear at me, they throw chairs in the classroom.. It was that sort of environment that you have to deal with in a very very low ability, low behavioral categorized schools. This has been a very nice thing to walk into, where teachers like teaching, and generally speaking, students are really respectful. And I love that, and the people are like that. Everyone that I’ve met, everyone that I’ve talked to, they ask the question: why are you here? And everyone’s interested in that, which is cool. For me, other th
an the geography, it’s a beautiful place to live, the people for me have made it a real positive experience.