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This story is shared as a tribute to Ray Croft who passed away on 25 November. Ray dedicated more than 49 years to teaching in government schools and will always be remembered for his lifelong passion and commitment to inspiring his students to succeed at school and in life.
TLC for Kids Founder and CEO Tim Conolan first met his teacher Ray Croft when Tim was a student at Buckley Park Secondary College in Essendon.
An Australia Day Ambassador and 2014 Australian of the Year Local Hero Award winner for his work with sick kids, Tim recalls the inspirational teacher who had a positive impact on him. Ray taught him to always do the right thing and to work hard to succeed. Ray, a retiree, remembers the student who demonstrated why teaching was such a rewarding job for him.
My fondest memories of school are of the ongoing friendships I made there and the support and encouragement I received from my teachers, especially Ray.
Ray was my Year 10 coordinator and woodwork teacher, and reminded me a little of my father. I saw him as a strong and confident role model ,so I always listened when he spoke or gave me advice. I really trusted him. He taught me the importance of being respectful to everyone you meet, and encouraged me to work hard at whatever I wanted to do and to have confidence in myself. For me, he was someone I didn't want to let down or do the wrong thing by.
At Buckley Park, my favourite subjects were art and woodwork as I loved drawing and creating. I remember wanting to be an architect at that time and Ray always took the time to listen to me and to guide me.
Ray's ongoing encouragement, guidance and support lead me to the path I am now on. He taught me to always do the right thing, which is something I have never forgotten and now live by.
I originally completed an apprenticeship as a builder before my late brother Robert Croft, a principal at Ballarat Teachers College, asked me to consider a career in teaching. That was the start of my teaching career that spanned from 1968 until I retired in 2017.
I absolutely loved being a teacher and I spent over 49 years teaching at two schools; 17 years at Eltham High School and 32 years at Buckley Park Secondary College.
For me, teaching and mentoring students was a lifelong passion so I always made sure I stayed up to date on emerging trends and teaching techniques. The welfare of my students was of particular interest and, in addition to teaching, I also served as a probation officer for several years to work with and support young people who had made some bad decisions in life. I really wanted to help them redirect their energies.
One of my favourite parts of being a teacher was being a positive role model for my students and helping them to set goals and targets, not only for their schooling, but for their lives.
I just wanted to change their lives for the better by being an accessible and open teacher, who shared knowledge and life experiences through my teaching.
I feel fortunate that I met so many committed, dedicated and interesting educators as well as highly engaged students such as Tim during my teaching career. Tim and I enjoyed each other's company and he was the type of student I admired. He worked hard and strived to be the best he could be. Tim was also very interested in student welfare and we spoke about it a lot. He was friendly and willing to help other students.
To be honest, from the first time I met him, I knew Tim was a natural leader and influencer. I am very proud of what he has achieved and that he is such an inspiration to many. It is students like Tim that absolutely made teaching worthwhile.
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