$5 Education

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In 1984, George Ansell was the senior studies co-ordinator at the TAFE college in Townsville in far north Queensland.  He was a highly qualified accountant who had relocated from South Africa bringing his family to Australia and remains the finest teacher I have encountered in thirty years of education.

My path crossed with George all too fleetingly when in his co-ordinator role my application landed on his desk – as I had applied without including the $5 fee.  I had assumed that I would be able to pay on arrival as in 1984 there were no methods that I could access to pay an amount of money, 800 miles away.  As the enrollment deadline was pending George Ansell paid the $5 fee from his own pocket.  I recall receiving my documents with a little hand written note attached saying as such with no hint that I should pay when I arrived.  As though that was not wonderful enough, I was further blessed to have George as my teacher for a year of rigorous accounting studies.

This two-year course was streamlined into just two semesters over one year and with no assignment assessment was graded with two-three hour exams with a one hour break between exams.  The sealed tests were forwarded for external marking to the Queensland Board of Studies.  Students waited for close to three months for the results but when they arrived I had a near perfect score.  This result would not have been achieved except for the dedicated, committed and talented teaching from George and the selfless deed of paying an enrollment fee for a name on a piece of paper.

I did work hard that year.  I took senior economics, english and modern history which were all exam based only and marked externally.  All courses were by requirement two years of curriculum condensed into one year of teaching with all content covered assessed in split six-hour examinations.  Though set over two weeks, three of my exams fell on consecutive days.  Graduate and Post Graduate studies never felt unmanageable after that year!  George also received the results of all students and could not have been prouder of the achievements.

Touch n Go life had begun and four years later after completing the last three-year teaching qualification to be offered at the Teacher’s College which then amalgamated with the university, I left Townsville moving to the southern end of the state due to an Army posting.  Here I began my first teaching job at Wilston State School.  This beautiful school was my home for the next four years, my classroom next to the remarkable Special Education teacher Bobbie, my first year mentored by fabulous Molly in her final year and all those wonderful 8 years olds who taught me as I taught them.  I loved every minute of it!  My first kids are now heading towards forty years in age!  In the staffroom a teacher told me, “You must have done exceedingly well to get into Wilston.”  By then I knew that this government school was the choice for the Australian Cricket Captain’s children (Greg Chappell) who was kind enough to do some cricket clinics with my kids! Show and tell was a heart valve one day – Dad the most revered heart surgeon in Australia at that time.  It was a positive, achieving culture and certainly a privileged landing for a first year teacher.

I did graduate with distinction which was awarded only to students with a perfect distinction award for the final eight week teaching practicum and grade point average during the three years no less than distinction but mostly high distinction.  I was one of 7 students awarded that year with a cohort around 170.  Though no written policy existed, it was understood that these graduates would be offered placement in the state system first.  Wilson could afford to be picky and I was a source of curiosity coming in from far North Queensland.  They were terrific years with supportive colleagues, good administrators, fantastic kids and well-meaning if not extraordinarily ambitious parents.

I thought of George and wanted to let him know how his $5 investment had turned out. When I returned to Townsville in 1994 I discovered he had retired from teaching and was a minister.  As our family had grown and with two small ones and Miss number three on the way, thoughts of George faded for some time.

With a year of maternity leave (non paid for QLD teachers then – of course!) pending I saw the pilot part time Masters and Guidance and Counseling course advertisement for teacher candidates and crazily applied.  I still thought of myself as a newbie and was chuffed and terrified when I made it to interview.  The panel of three which had me shaking inside soon became friends and colleagues.  The next twelve months were Master of Education (Guidance and Counseling) studies on campus, training workshops for GOITs…Guidance Officers in Training…new borne Annie with me at most and then my school called to ask if I would consider returning early for a one day a week position. The year 7s consisted mainly of my former year 5s and there were major issues.  Yes, I did it.  Yes, I loved it.  Yes, I was crazy.  This was a tough school and home life was not always easy for kids.  There are times when deep down  you know you made a difference and I believe for me, it was usually in tough schools.

I had not forgotten George and found myself near to where his church was located.  On the spur of the moment I called in and found administration.  George was not well and no longer ministering.  Whilst I really wanted to contact him, I was young and did not realize that he and his family would most likely have welcomed me.  I felt I did not want to intrude and thus time passed, we moved on again and George became a fond memory.

So to my teacher George –

Thank you so much, I did really well on those senior exams and received a first round offer into my course of choice.

Thanks heaps George as I loved teaching and completed my Masters and qualified as a Guidance Officer back when they even trusted us to administer the WISC and the Stanford Binet.

I taught in primary in QLD, NSW and ACT.  I did some casual teaching in secondary. These schools were government, Catholic and Independent.  George, they all had their merits and I am proud to have such a diverse education legacy.

So George, I taught Foundations of Education Psychology in Hawaii, USA and I have never studied harder in my life to keep pace!  I also assessed student teachers across Hawaii and introduced a written reporting system to the University and School Principals (based loosely on my guidance training and reporting).

George, I tutored at UC in an indigenous program and made a world of difference for quite a few young people and in particular a talented young boxer – teaching, it just does not get better than this!

And George, my final year was spent at one of the finest schools I could ever hope to contribute to. Teaching the IB was a highlight of my career – and guess what George, I finished where I started with year 3.  Always my heart!

I know I cannot tell you all this now.  You were 60 something when I arrived in your class at 22.  But George, I wanted to let you know how your five bucks turned out.

Thank you does not cover it.  Oh and George, if I did not pay that $5 back…and I sure hope I did…but if not, I know you helped me pay it back in Education.

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