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Long time at the lectern

By Kristie Kellahan

After 40-plus years of teaching, the profession still yields rewards.

In 1971, Jim Cary was one of a plane load of American teachers imported to Australia to correct a chronic teacher shortage. He’s still here, 41 years later, and still enthusiastic about what he calls ‘‘a great profession’’.

‘‘Teaching has changed quite a bit over that long period of time but the one great constant is the students,’’ Cary says. ‘‘They never cease to amaze or challenge me.’’

Initially placed at Preston East Tech, Cary also taught for many years at Coburg Tech. After 21 years in technical high schools, he was placed at Sunbury College and has remained there for the past 19years.

‘‘To anyone thinking of entering the profession, I have one piece of advice: make sure you enjoy dealing with young people and have a large amount of patience,’’ Cary says. ‘‘You will have your wins and your losses but it is all very rewarding.’’

Cary says one of the most satisfying rewards of a long teaching career is observing former students’ progress through life.

‘‘I have been fortunate enough to even teach children of people I taught when they were in school,’’ he says.

Kevin Mackay can trace his teaching career back even further, to 1962, at Frankston Teachers’ College. Today he is the principal of Dandenong North Primary School, but he still remembers being paid $12 a week, which was enough to run a car and pay board 50 years ago.

In the past 50 years of continuous service, Mackay has taught in rural one-teacher schools, as a remedial teacher and in a youth training prison. He has worked his way up to the position of principal and is proud to say he’s only been absent from school for four days since June 1994.

Mackay remembers the corporal punishment days of ‘‘the strap’’, the trepidation of teaching students only six years younger than he was as a rookie, and the adventure of living in the one pub in town during remote postings.

‘‘Casual observers might be tempted to say that education hasn’t changed all that much in the past 50years,’’ Mackay says. ‘‘Education is a bit like ‘grandpa’s axe’ – it has had seven new heads and 11 new handles, but it’s thought to be the same axe.

‘‘In fact, the changes have been huge over half a century. For example, the mathematics curriculum used to be published as a one-page document – and that included how pounds, shillings and pence, tons, hundredweight, different pounds and ounces, miles, yards, feet and inches were to be taught across year levels.’’

Mackay says most of all he loves the variety of challenges that teaching provides. ‘‘I’m hugely rewarded when our school is humming with students who are happy, engaged and achieving learning success and when our team of staff achieves synergies and outcomes that everyone can be proud of,’’ he says.

Published: 06 October 2012

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