Class is over for state’s oldest teacher

NSW’s oldest teacher, 84-year-old Federation member Sally Hill, retired this week after 65 years in the classroom, farewelled by pupils and teachers at Canterbury South Public School who called her an inspiring teacher and “an awesome mentor”.

“She’s equally as passionate on her last day as I’m sure she was on her first day, and that’s where we see the biggest impact on kids,” state Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said at her farewell – and then experienced Sally’s gusto first-hand as she gave him a traditional Maori nose-to-nose greeting.

Her pupils, some of whom in time became her colleagues, paid tribute to the art teacher.   

“If you do make a mistake she turns it into something that’s even better than it was before,” one girl told Channel Nine, which filmed Sally’s last day at school.

The principal of Canterbury South PS, Daniela Frasca, said Sally was full of wisdom.

“She had a really special connection with the children,” Ms Frasca said.

“She was inspirational, motivated, positive – nothing was ever too hard or a challenge.”

Sally said her teaching years had been joyous and that the ending was “bittersweet”.

Born in New Zealand, Sally said what she really wanted to be was not a teacher but a civil engineer. “I wanted to build bridges!” she said. But that was 1949, just after World War II, and women didn’t get to build bridges.

“I’d gained a government scholarship to go to boarding school and the next step for me and other women was either to follow in your mother’s footsteps and keep house or become a teacher or a nurse.”

She decided to become a teacher. “The government paid us to be trained, and there was a little money left over. It was a way of getting into the workforce with a secure job.”

She went on to teach in Nauru for four years in the early 1960s before settling in Sydney where she taught at public schools in Como, Connell's Point, Sylvania Heights, Kurnell and, finally, Canterbury South.

“I’ve seen so many changes,” she said of her 65 years in public education. “It’s a wonderful profession, very satisfactory. Every day brings a new challenge, not like sitting at some desk.”

See the Channel Nine story on Sally Hill here

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