Recognition of Service videos

The stories of three of this year’s recipients were shared at the 2019 ceremony through short videos profiling their careers.

School principal Allan Robinson, Grade 2 teacher Adele Meren and sports career counsellor Maureen Spencer-Gardner were each recognised for their 50-year careers which have impacted the lives of countless young Victorians touched by their passion and dedication to public education in Victoria.

Adele Meren

Adele Meren, a Grade 2 teacher at Elwood Primary School, turned down a career as a lawyer to become a classroom teacher. She hasn’t regretted her decision for a single moment.

Audio transcript

[Adele Meren - Recognition of service award, 50 years]

Walking into the classroom, even after so many years, is a dream. Their eagerness, their thirst for, for knowing. Why? But why? So, I love all of that.

My name is Adele Meren. I’ve been teaching for 50 years.

Well I went to, what was Coburg Teachers College in those days, and it was on the grounds of Pentridge Prison’s farmyard. So, as we walked in to the college, the guards up in the guard tower would call out to us literally: “Hurry up love, the bell’s gone!”. And you would hear them: “Prisoner number whatever, you’re wanted in the office.” So that was my introduction to teaching.

Children haven’t really changed. They still love what you’re doing for them. They’re still hopefully a little bit naïve and not too streetwise. They love books. Anh Do… I’ve probably got 20 of his books here and... “Adele, are you buying the next Anh Do book?” You know, “Hot Dogs has come out, are you buying this one?” They know that I love books, and I’m hoping to, sort of, spread that to them. But children are basically the same.

The fact that you can have an impact on a child’s life. I’ve taught children who’ve had… who have had horrible home lives and if we’re able to help them in some way, and make their life… better and show them that there is a better way, that to me is wonderful.

There was a child, who is no longer here, who had a really horrible background. As part of “Investigations”, he would take the chess board and he would play chess with me. And he would beat me. And that was great. But I taught him how to lose and not to throw a wobbly when he lost. And at the end of the year I bought him a really good chess set. And I just wanted that child to know, that even though he had a horrible background, there is hope for him in the future.

I think that teaching is just the most wonderful thing you can do. My mother was wrong she wanted me, as I said, she wanted me to be a lawyer. And I have many friends who are lawyers and I think that would be the most boring thing.I’ve been on a few juries, in court, and I just think, honestly... these kids would wipe the floor with you.

Allan Robinson

Allan Robinson, principal at Montmorency Secondary College, was a leather jacket-wearing, long-haired hippie when he first started teaching. He may have short hair now, but his passion for education certainly hasn’t changed.

Audio transcript

[Allan Robinson - Recognition of service award, 50 years]

Oh, my first day at Broadmeadows… um, it was a little bit daunting. The principal wasn’t impressed because I had a leather jacket and long hair, and jeans on, and I was told to tidy myself up a bit. It was a bit different back then.

My name’s Allan Robinson. I’ve been teaching for 50 years.

I was attracted to teaching because I really enjoyed my time at school and I always wanted to be a teacher. I had an uncle and a cousin who were both teachers and I was really excited about the prospect of becoming a teacher, working with kids.

As a first-year teacher, I met my wife Pamela. She was a second-year teacher at the school at the time. She was a music teacher, I was an English teacher. That’s where we met and we got married in 1977. We’ve been happily married for 42 years.

Just to see the students that come through who, you taught their parents, and in one case recently, I taught a grandparent when I was a student teacher at Broadmeadows High School, we’ve had their grandchildren coming through the school. But that’s a lovely relationship and it’s also a good endorsement that you feel there’s that trust from the family to place their child in your hands.

[Catherine Buley - Allan's former student]

When I found out that he was the principal at the high school like, that’s where my boys were coming. ‘Cos I know his work ethic, I know his love for the job and he’s an amazing man and teacher.

My youngest is in Year 9, so he’s gotta stay on ‘till at least he gets to the end of high school. I don’t want him to leave, I don’t want anyone else to run the school that my kids go to. No-one can ever fill his shoes.

[Allan Robinson]

For teachers to stay in the system and work for a long time they can pass on their experience and knowledge to the younger staff coming through. Now we’ve been told that in the future, people will have, you know 10, 20 different job changes once they leave school. Not like us old dinosaurs but I think it’s really important to learn from the past. Learn from the experience of others and it is so critical that that advice, that support, that mentoring takes place.

I enjoy working with the students. They never cease to amaze me, the students. That’s one of the most privileged things you can do is work with the youth of today who are the leaders of tomorrow and just to have that relationship with them... it’s just so rewarding.

Maureen Spencer-Gardner

Dedicated teacher Maureen Spencer-Gardner thought she had retired 10 years ago, until a rare opportunity at Maribyrnong Secondary College came knocking.

Audio transcript

[Maureen Spencer-Gardner - Recognition of service award, 50 years]

I love getting up and coming to work every day. Making a difference for kids and families. And I love being part of that.

My name’s Maureen Spencer-Gardner and I’ve been teaching for 50 years.

Always wanted to be a teacher. Eldest of a big family, so I was always looking after little ones. I loved school. Had some great relationships with my own teachers in times when, that wasn’t always the case, I guess. So, I always dreamed of being a teacher.

I came to Maribyrnong towards the end of 2008. I thought I had retired… but I missed the school environment. I missed the daily action. Then by the start of the next year I was working here full time as Admissions Officer, and US College Guidance Officer.

[Zac - Year 11]

My name’s Zac Triplett and I play basketball. So, I’ve known Maureen since Year 7, but I actually started working with her in Year 9. Selecting courses and stuff that will allow me to attend NCAA universities. Maureen’s been such a help, like, everywhere, she helps with everything, courses, colleges, also talking to colleges, sending my scripts out to colleges. Also, getting my GPA and stuff up, making sure we maintain that which has been really good, having someone there to help me through the process. So, yeah.

I’ve always loved sport. Played tennis, played netball, before basketball was even known as a women’s sport in Australia. I’m passionate about sport for how it impacts people’s lives and ripples out to everyone around them and it connects them to other people. So, I’ve got this whole network of people, parents and student athletes, through my work. That’s just so enriching.

[Monique - AFLW/ WNBL player]

If I didn’t have someone like you, in your position, helping me through all the college stuff, and making a massive lifetime decision, I’d probably just be really lost. I don’t think I’d be playing two professional sports. Having someone like you helping so many different kids out and helping them achieve their dreams is very special. I think Maribyrnong is really lucky to have someone like you giving back to all those students.

[Maureen Spencer-Gardner]

These 50-year teachers like me have worked through some amazing times and still having the passion all that time later is such a gift. And I’m just thankful for it every day.