CIS School Cambridge
A diverse and enriching educational experience


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RT @cissport: Tag rugby cancelled this afternoon due to the weather ⚠️. Rearranged for the 10th of March.


Thespina Coombe

Head of English and Drama

Life before CIS

I grew up in Wallington, Surrey. Before going to University (as a mature student) I worked in a London Jobcentre on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, helping the unemployed to start their own businesses. I also worked at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth as a publicity officer in the Museum Services Department where I assisted in organising events for new exhibitions. It’s an amazing museum and makes my teaching of war poetry more intensive and personal as I had access to so many artefacts and met many interesting people involved in both World Wars. The staff there were an inspiration, so cultured and committed. It was great fun talking to Spike Milligan, Edwina Currie, Selina Scott, Alan Sillitoe and Germaine Greer as part of the job. I have worked as a teacher in Suffolk, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh and Cambridge and still keep in touch with friends from all those schools, all working in diverse educational environments. Living in Switzerland for two years where my youngest son was born was a fabulous experience; the breathtaking scenery and the pumpernickel bread baked every other day at the local bakery were particular pleasures. I learnt to ski – I loved the slalom – it’s a shame my joints are not up for it anymore!

What do you enjoy most about the subjects you teach?

Some of our international students join us with limited English. What a joy it is to see them laugh during Drama activities and begin to speak with confidence. It’s great not being bound by a National Curriculum or fixed modules. I enjoy the freedom of being able to come up with different ways to teach a novel or aspect of English; the introduction of fresh ideas is met with creative energy from the students which results in fabulous work. I need to have that cycle of motivating students which leads to students motivating me. English is all about using language to communicate in a variety of ways. Seeing the creativity that students produce is an incredibly rewarding experience and something I particularly enjoy about teaching English and Drama. I love teaching Shakespeare’s imagery. I know that students find it difficult but I hope to convey some of the beauty and magnificence of it at some point during their time at CIS. I have had the privilege of directing two productions and they have been significant highlights for me during my four years at CIS; I am so proud of the students when they work together to achieve something so wonderful.

What do you enjoy most about CIS and what makes it special?

I don’t think the students realise how committed to the students we are!  This definitely makes CIS special. I have worked in many schools and I have never before seen so much focus on trying to help and care for students. They are a fabulous group of young people; I love their diverse personalities, talents and eccentricities! I think the interesting mix of staff with their myriad of talents, personalities and eccentricities are a good example to the students as it is important for students to see our individuality and know that you can succeed while still being true to yourself. I enjoy seeing the progress the students make not just academically but socially; I enjoy watching their friendships flourish and the support they give each other. Colleagues are crucial and the staff at CIS are brilliant because despite our disparate personalities, we have great fun!


I have been to Venice six times because I love to hear the church bells ringing – bells that have been ringing for hundreds of years. On every visit, I go to Peggy Guggenheim’s Palazzo on the Grand Canal to view her great collection of art, especially Calder’s silver bedstead. I have sat in the Basilica dei Frari for two hours looking at Bellini’s exquisite Madonna and Child triptych. I also love the work by Tintoretto in the Scuola di San Rocco. I have a passion for art and I have seen a fair amount around the world including every single work of Paul Klee’s that is available to the public in Switzerland. I went to Dublin last Easter especially to see the beautiful Caravaggio painting, ‘The Taking of Christ’, that was discovered in a Jesuit House and now hangs in the National Gallery. The world is so amazing and I am incredibly fortunate to have had opportunities to discover a fraction of it: I have driven across the African rift valley where I watched, in awe, as an eagle swooped above me with a huge hare bleeding in its claws. I have bathed in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. I have seen sunsets in the Aegean, the Indian Ocean and on the Pacific Coast. I have seen humpback whales breaching over twenty-five pregnant blue whales on their way to Costa Rica to give birth to their calves. I have cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge and photographed school children in Cuba. Travelling and reading are edifying passions for me as they help me to understand the world and most importantly, enjoy it. I believe you should indulge yourself in whatever passions bring you enjoyment and peace of mind. Hearing or reading words that make connections to your soul or life should be embraced and savoured. One of my favourite books is ‘Independent People’ by Haldor Laxness. I am a very slow reader but you know, it’s not a competition over how many books but what sort of connections you are making just as in Yoga (which I recently discovered a passion for), where it is not just about being able to touch your toes but what you learn on the way down. My other passions include theatre, photography, creating collages, sewing, gardens, Veuve Cliquot and a good Barolo.