Recognition of Service videos

Eight of this year's recipients, teachers and principals from primary and secondary schools around Victoria, reflect on their lengthy careers. 

Hear from Julianne Hughes, Bruce Kearney, Myles Ashton and Vijay John (40 years of service); Julie Campbell, Jennifer Strachan and Deborah Patterson (45 years of service) and John Oldham (55 years of service) as they each share their memories. 

Each recipient is recognised for their long careers, which have impacted the lives of countless young Victorians touched by their passion and dedication to public education in Victoria.

Starting out

Our 2021 service recognition recipients think back to their very first day in the classroom, all those years ago. 

 
Audio transcript

[Deborah Patterson - 45 years of service]
Now I won't ask whether you got the hair and the make-up to all come in here

[Crew member]
We spent it all on us.

[Myles Ashton - 40 years of service]
Look there?

[John Oldham - 55 years of service]
John, take one.

[Julianne Hughes - 40 years of service]
Oh, this way. Ha ha!

[Julie Campbell - 45 years of service]
Action!

[Julianne Hughes]
What drew me to teaching was my Mum. My mother was one of seven children, and actually five of them were teachers.

[Julie Campbell]
School for me was everything. My mates were there, and the junior students that I used to play with every day and look after them, and that's where my love of teaching came from.

[John Oldham]
I lived near Burwood Teacher's College, and I saw that there was a trained primary teacher's certificate and I signed up for it. So that's how I got into teaching. And then I was in front of a classroom.

[Jennifer Strachan - 45 years of service ]
I had 39 prep students, and this suburb, Ardeer South, had newly arrived migrants there, and so the children didn't speak any English.

[Julie Campbell]
My first day of teaching at Highett High School was most interesting. I was a drama teacher, but instead of making eye contact with the students, I read from a script, and I wish I could do that right now.

[Bruce Kearney - 40 years of service]
Bit scary, thinking I'd been put in charge of a prep-one class of 32 students and I think by the end of the first week I thought "I'm not cut out to be a teacher, at all".

[Myles Ashton]
"This is your timetable, that's the room. Goodbye" And, you know, you were left on your own basically.

[Deborah Patterson]
I was only 20. I actually turned 21 in my first year because I can remember how the staff all bought me a 21st cake, and I bent over to blow the candles out and my fringe caught on fire!

[Vijay John - 40 years of service]
I was teaching year ten boys, which were six foot high and very big, and they couldn't see the difference between me and them, except for the fact that I was not wearing a uniform, so I started growing a beard and a moustache. That was the only way that I could...they could see that I was a teacher, not a student. Ha ha!

[Jennifer Strachan]
The parents were so upset, I still remember a couple of them having their face to the window, and the hands were up so...ha ha! So you can imagine the distress that was everywhere there, including myself that was a teacher on the first day of school.

[Bruce Kearney]
The turning point came when, I think I was at the end of my second year of teaching, I was walking out at the end of the year, and I'd received all these gifts from my students and I walked past the assistant principal at that stage and I said "look at all this", and he goes "that's because you're a damn good teacher". And that was "the click". And his belief in me encouraged me to better myself, to look for leadership opportunities, and here I am.

[John Oldham]
You'll call me, is that right? Don't call you?

Special Memories

With so many years of experience, our recipients have made many memories. Hear some of their most memorable moments, some entertaining and some touching.

 
Audio transcript

[Bruce Kearney - 40 years of service]
In that first week of teaching back in 1980, I would not in my wildest dreams have thought I'd be still doing it forty years later.

[Jennifer Strachan - 45 years of service]
45 sounds like an awfully long time.

[Vijay John - 40 years of service]
The recognition is very, very... I mean, I'm really, really happy that I've been recognised for what I'm doing.
I'm a person who has contributed for 40 years of educating the students of Victoria.

[Deborah Patterson - 45 years of service]
Completely forgot that I'd been 45 years, and look, I've just been on a high ever since I got the phone call.
Raced out to the shed and got every bit of memorabilia, bought a new jacket.
It's very nice to be recognised, and acknowledged for all the work that you've done in education.

[John Oldham - 55 years of service]
Even today, I don't have a day when I don't feel like going.

[Vijay John]
The reward is, is the satisfaction of having made some changes to the learning of the students

[Julie Campbell - 45 years of service ]
"Julie, you make me feel like I can learn."
I'm going to cry.

[Myles Ashton - 40 years of service]
The thing I was most proudest, particularly at Box Hill, was that we gave kids a go.

[Julie Campbell]
When a student acknowledges they can do something, that's amazing.
When they thought they couldn't.

[Myles Ashton]
The fact that we gave kids a go, kept them in education, and that's the single best thing I think we ever did.
Education should be for all, and education should be attainable for everybody.

[Julianne Hughes - 40 years of service]
I went into a classroom the other day, and I hadn't seen this little boy for a while, in grade three, and the teacher said, I said "is it OK I come and see him at a certain time, you know, after I've seen this other child?" and she said, "Oh yes, he loves you."
You know, and that just made my day.

[John Oldham]
I always say to the children for a joke, "if you draw me, I like to have spiky hair".
And so, these are the drawings that someone brought in yesterday, and there's me of course, with the spiky hair, and there's Emily, and there's her friend doing the fundamental motor skills.

[Bruce Kearney]
I had a former student write an article that was published in The Age I think the heading was 'Sweet music, cool mullet: my finest teacher.'
And, you know, it was published in The Age back in 2002, and I didn't know it was coming out, and she called me that morning and said "make sure you get The Age today and have a read of it" and it was, yeah, a very pleasant surprise. And that was a highlight.
That was, that made it all worthwhile.

[Deborah Patterson]
She's keen. And do you know what? 
All the ideas, or the ideals, that she had in her head of why she wanted to be a teacher, I've still got them. 
I had the essence of a teacher, and I'm finishing, oh I was going to be a bit teary-eyed. 
And I'm... 
And I'm finishing 45 years with the same passion.

Changes and advice

A lot has changed since their first day in the classroom. Our recipients reflect on the many changes in education over the decades and offer advice to new teachers. 

 
Audio transcript

[Julie Campbell - 45 years of service]
So much has changed, like, some people find it a little bit scary.
But because I'm working with children, I feel so privileged to work with teenagers.
You actually change, along with the students.

[Vijay John - 40 years of service]
There is a myth, saying that the older teachers don't change. And that's where they're wrong.
I think the older, people like me have changed dramatically, I mean you never stop learning yourself.

[John Oldham - 55 years of service]
When I first got a laptop, at Blackburn Lake, I just left it in the boot all day. I never took it inside. 
I didn't want to use the laptop sort of thing, now I'm never off it.

[Bruce Kearney - 40 years of service]

We've learnt to be a lot more inclusive, understanding of the different cultures,and beliefs and religions.

[John Oldham]
At the start I was more like a teacher magician out the front, so I had the equipment, and I did the things.
Where now, the children do it, so I'm another musician in the classroom with the students.

[Julie Campbell]
Can I read something to you from my students?

[Interviewer]
You certainly may.

[Julie Campbell]
These are students who have found school quite difficult, and they're all very different.
And they're amazing. And their advice to you, new teacher, is

[John Oldham]
Teach to your strengths.
Look to the opportunities to develop. Both the things that you are really good at and the things that you could be better at.

[Julianne Hughes - 40 years of service]
Don't hesitate to ask other teachers. And also try to get an opportunity to see how other teachers work.

[Julie Campbell]
Don't identify students by their label. For example, dyslexia.
We are more than our learning difficulty.

[Jennifer Strachan - 45 years of service ]
Be kind to yourself. 
There's a lot to learn, and it's a hard road at times.

[Bruce Kearney] 
Be yourself in the classroom. The kids appreciate seeing a teachers personality. I think that's the way to build positive relationships.

[Julie Campbell]
Be patient, we want to learn, and understand our struggle.

[Vijay John]
Prepare more than what's needed.
Never have a situation where you go into a classroom, and after 20 minutes, they have got no work to do.

[Myles Ashton - 40 years of service] 
Connecting with your students is paramount. 
You don't have to be their friend, and all that sort of stuff, but you do need to connect.

[Deborah Patterson - 45 years of service]
So, you've got to have knowledge, you've got to have the skills, and above all, you've got to have the passion. Treat every child as if they're your own.

[Jennifer Strachan]
If you want to make a difference with a child, I think you need to be in the moment. 
You need to listen, and you need to help them to feel safe.

[Julie Campbell]
And when things change in the classroom, go with it.
The best laid plans sometimes go astray, and that's fine, because that's when real learning happens. 
When the students in the classroom intervene.