Jon Demery arrived at St David’s as a young DT teacher in 1992. From the very beginning, he and his wife Ann embraced the St David’s community frequently visiting Snowdon flat which was the hub of activity in the boarding community at the time. In 1997, Ann and Jon moved into Snowdon with the same energy and enthusiasm that they are still so well known for 24 years on.
As well as bringing their South Walian ‘Joie de Vivre to their roles, Jon and Ann offer so much more. Ann works as our SchoolBase Administrator and Jon, a DT teacher, brings his love of astronomy and radio-controlled model flying to our extensive activity programme. For over 20 years, they have taken the annual school ski trip to European and American resorts and Jon heads the skiing activities on the Great Orme and further afield in Chill Factore, Manchester at weekends.
Jon, you’ve been at St David’s for 29 years. What are the most significant changes you have seen during your time here?
Changing from an all-boys school to co-educational! That was a big change. The various buildings going up and improvements in technology across the school. Our DT department keeping ahead of the game with a new build filled with so much up-to-date machinery and tech such as the CAD lab, laser printers, 3D printers, and 3D routers. Many students come back from university interviews remarking that the workshops weren’t as good as ours!
Why did you decide to become a Housemaster?
I think the school decided. St David’s is essentially a boarding school and we were drawn into the DNA of the place. Housemastering is very much a lifestyle choice rather than a career choice. It is a real privilege to be entrusted with other people’s children and due to the decades of experience we have had as House Parents, we often find we are educating parents in teenage behaviour as well as guiding and mentoring the children.
How would you describe the qualities of Snowdon House?
Snowdon has always been about concentrating on one goal together. We are about inclusion and making everyone feel valued. A few years ago, we adopted the motto “Together Stronger” and this embraces the House ethos of getting everyone involved and finding a niche for every individual. In my House Assemblies, I often use the analogy of the game Tetris: We are all different shapes and fit pleasingly into one big bright pattern. Once the pattern is complete, the shapes leave us allowing them to find their own way. They know that they are capable of being part of something greater in whatever they choose to do in life.
What are your favourite House competitions and why?
All of them really but if I were to pick one it would have to be House Swimming! You are in an enclosed amphitheater-like environment and the atmosphere is intense. I love the way everything builds up and the cheering is on another level! It’s a great competition to get spectators on board and we always joke about the Housemasters’ blood pressure before and after the competition.
Old Davideans say that being part of your House is for life, not just while at school. How true is this?
100% true! Just this week, on Facebook, an Old Davidean in his mid-40s posted a picture of himself in a navy tie with blue diagonal stripes (very similar to the Snowdon House tie). Picking up on this straight away, the Snowdon House Captain from his year commented: “At last the correct House tie John, Snowdon all the way!” John was Head Boy and in Tryfan. As you can imagine, many comments from other peers followed!
What are the favourite activities that your Snowdon house boarders enjoy in the evenings?
BBQ’s on the beach in the summer, film nights and arguing what film to watch, taking up more time than it takes to watch the film! Stargazing on the Great Orme…
What is your focus during House Assemblies?
It varies. It might consider things going on in the world, it might be related to purely school-based matters. Wherever possible I try and get students involved as much as possible. At the start of each new year we continue with the tradition of reading ‘Desiderata’ - an inspirational piece. I often use quotes from it in other assemblies, we have it on our wall in the boarding house and it is often read by seniors in House Reading Competitions. It was a tradition started by Keith Lennard and I am proud to continue with this each year. I have recently been including profiles of Old Davideans. The House really enjoys it when I talk about the non-conventionalists who have taken their skills developed in school to pursue careers that are wide and varied. Recently I have been talking about Mark Chambers who works for the British Antarctic Survey Team in Antarctica and Dan Jones, who is an environmental scientist and extreme sports enthusiast. Dan has decided to swim the Channel to raise money and awareness to help reduce plastic pollution in our oceans.
We prepare for House Competitions well in advance planning teams and practices. We don’t just get the students involved who are the best. Winning is the aim but it’s important to get everyone involved. House Assemblies are good for encouraging that, help to generate House spirit.
What House leadership opportunities are available for pupils?
You have your House Captains, Deputies, House Prefects and in the lower years, your Junior Sports Captains. The younger ones like organising lists for pizza orders and Asda trips and you can always tell from a young age whether someone is interested in developing leadership skills.
What are your best experiences of running the silent flight and astronomy clubs over the years?
Too many to mention. Going to Penmon beach and watching the meteor showers at 3am. Watching the Solar eclipse on the Great Orme and taking pictures. It went darker than expected and the birds became silent. It got so cold that we had to warm up with hot chocolates on the way back to school. With silent flight, it’s that perfect alignment when the wind is ideal, and the sun is setting. There is nothing better than flying on the Orme during Golden Hour with perfect wind.
How many years have you been taking the ski trips?
29 years! I remember the Headmaster, William Seymour calling me into his study and saying:
“Jon! I would like you to resurrect the junior ski trip.”
“But I can’t ski!” I replied.
“Don’t worry,” he declared, “I can send you to a place in Scotland to learn!”
After two very long journeys in a minibus, I realised we could all go to the Alps for not much more money! So, on the first few trips, Ann and I were learning to ski with the pupils. Now we have the annual ski trip, race training trips and ski racing abroad.
What are some of your best memories of ski trips?
Once again, there are so many but one particularly hilarious incident was when Nick Hesp re-enacted the scene from ‘Dumb and Dumber’ to see if his tongue really would freeze to the ski lift chair. It did! Warm water was needed quickly to detach him from the chair!
If you had your time again, what would you change?
(Thinks for a few moments). Nothing. Nothing at all.