SPOTLIGHT - DEBBIE KENNETT
The Spotlight shines on our ‘Sleepless-in Seattle’ American friend, Debbie Kennett, Warminster’s big-hearted and resourceful Attendance Administrator.
Debbie grew up in wet, damp, sun-deprived Seattle – which she feels was fortuitous considering she married a Brit. Having attended an all-girls catholic school, her penchant for breaking the rules developed at a very early age. She went to university in Hawaii before joining the United Nations. She was a Field Personnel Officer specialising in the national staff of field operations, which she thoroughly enjoyed for nearly 10 years. Whilst based in Sierra Leone, she met her husband who was there serving with the British Army. Debbie was swept off her feet by this dashing army officer and has subsequently lived in the UK for 15 years. She has been part of the Warminster family since her two children Charlie and Evie began in Warminster’s Nursery over ten years ago.
How long have you worked at Warminster?
This is my sixth year working in Attendance, but I have been a part of Warminster School since my children joined in Nursery 10 years ago, volunteering predominantly with the Warminster School Parents’ Association. It can often feel like I been here a good 30 years!
What’s the best thing about your role?
To be surrounded by the pupils all day, every day, for better or for worse. No two days are ever the same. I have the privilege of not only knowing every pupil in the Senior School, but most of the parents as well.
Describe a typical day?
No such thing here at Warminster.
What do you think makes Warminster a special place to live and learn?
With an average of over 20 different nationalities at any given time, and not being an overwhelmingly large school, Warminster is always buzzing with an exotic dynamic. This is apparent everywhere you look. The Modern Foreign Language Department hosting exchange programmes with pupils from our sister schools in Spain and France to the EAL Department hosting international days. Elaborate artwork depicting traditional subjects encouraged and nurtured by the Art Department to the Library and its expanding collection of foreign language books and the Catering Department for incorporating special celebratory meals to acknowledge international holidays alongside our foreign friends. We also have the Model United Nations Club and the Mandarin Club, which is taught to the pupils by the pupils. All of these are a vibrant bonus for anyone to be a part of here at Warminster. Most importantly, it is all the more poignant in seeing how the national and international pupils take such a keen interest in one another’s unique differences. Warminster provides the pupils with a big exposure to the fascinating world we live in.
We also hear you keep up with the American tradition and like to help with celebrations/holidays and have an outfit for every occasion and decorations to match.
I was raised with the strong belief in sharing with those less fortunate. There are only three months in the year that do not hold a significant reason to celebrate something. Having been blessed with the genetic gift of hoarding (!), I have accumulated enough holiday decorations for each month to not only decorate my home, but to share that joy with the School by way of decorating the Library – which I am sure Mrs Field thoroughly appreciates (she just doesn’t realise it). My husband is also a keen supporter of my decorating skills, especially in January when the electricity meter reminds him that surplus to requirement Christmas lights do have an effect on the bill. My favorites are probably my beautiful Chinese jacket or my Mrs Claus outfit. But then, there is that 7 foot inflatable pink bunny for Easter…
What do you miss about America?
I miss good, authentic Mexican food. In America, we have as many Mexican restaurants as there are curry houses here in the UK. I have tried nearly every Mexican restaurant in the greater London area and have not quite found the right one yet. Nachos should not be made with flavored tortilla chips!
There are a few other things I miss, but I felt fully integrated within the UK when I was not only able to follow what was happening on ‘Have I Got News for You’, but laugh along with my father-in-law because I finally got the joke.
Should we ask you about the new President?
What would surprise us about you?
I have a BSc in International Business and an MBA in Human Resources.
I am also an avid gardener. I have quite a large garden that I tend to as often as possible. Once it warms up again, you will find me meticulously mowing the majority by hand with my special new high-tech, line producing, mean machine. Of course, I do have some assistance, my husband helps with the lower third with his 3mph sit on mower. Needless to say, we don’t show guests the lower section.
What other Warminster role would you like to try for a day and why?
The Admissions Office. To see the new generation of Verlucians when they start their journey or the Old Verlucians Office to see all the pupils that have already left us and what they are up to now.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A racing car driver. As children, we spent many a summer in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There was a go-cart track we always went to and I was convinced that is what I would do. But alas, my only racing now is trying to get my children to school on time. It does not look very good for the children of the Attendance Dictator to be late!
What did your school reports say about you?
Chats too much. Very friendly, very kind, very clever. However…
Your note/advice to teenage self?
You do not need to impress others – be yourself and everything else will fall into place.
Oh, and your father is definitely going to notice those 5 ear piercings.
Your mantra/motto or favourite quote?
Good manners will get you further in this world than anything else.
Hidden ambitions still to achieve?
I should probably work on my foreign language skills. I speak very broken Serbo-Croat, but probably should not after living in the former Yugoslavia for 5 years. I would also very much like to learn Arabic - and the Cello.
Rudeness, unkindness, complacency, duplicity.
The Ramones, Elvis Costello, Alison Moyet, Blondie – I am an 80’s child.
My sister dragged me along to ‘her’ concerts too, so I also have a secret side that loves ACDC, Aerosmith and Whitesnake.
Doughnuts. And peanuts. Generally not together, but either in a gluttonous quantity makes me very happy.
Signature dish if you were on MasterChef?
My Dad’s specialty - a whole side of slow grilled salmon in a swamp of butter and dill on the barbecue.
For those that really know me, they spot that my husband is really the chef. I have spent years convincing my children that Cheerios are a perfectly acceptable dinner option – 5 wholegrains!
Favourite TV programme?
Poirot and Miss Marple. Or anything period drama really. I am currently enthralled with The Halcyon. It’s pretty much how I decorated my house following our renovation. All my lampshades would have made Agatha Christie proud.
I do however very much enjoy Hawaii 5-0. I went to University in Hawaii and enjoy not only the scenery in the show, but they also use a fair amount of the Hawaiian language, which I miss.
Last book you read?
The Paris Wife – brilliant story about the Hemingways when they were young, in love and in Paris. I’m just now starting Z : A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Both are predominantly non-fictional, however there is an element of artistic license with quite a bit of embellish. This, however, is what makes history interesting. My favorite book would be I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallmann. It is one of the most beautifully descriptive books and brings Africa to life in the mind's eye.
Last movie watched?
Bad Moms – with my fellow bad moms.
Which actor would play you in a movie about your life?
Sandra Bullock. Because deep down I know I am that slender, beautiful and witty. Ignorance is bliss…
Favorite place/city in the world and why?
Sarajevo – I lived there for 3 years during a period of tragedy for the country. An incredibly magical city full of history and architecture; you would be hard pressed to find a single family that escaped the war unscathed in some way. Despite all they have been through, the people remain generous, compassionate and welcoming. This perseverance and kindness is not unique to Sarajevo alone – it is prevalent throughout the entire former union. I recommend a visit somewhere in the former Yugoslavia at some point in your life.
Twitter or Facebook?
Neither – old dog… no new tricks – I have children for that! What is wrong with a good old-fashioned long telephone call or meeting up with friends?