30 May 2023

Class acts: Joint celebration of 40 years teaching generations of children

| John Thistleton
Start the conversation
two women

Carmel Halder and Toni-Gaye Bush set their sights on teaching careers from a young age and worked at schools around Goulburn before marrying and continuing their careers there. Photos: Gavin Halder.

Inspired by teachers and mentored by exceptional educators, two Goulburn women are each celebrating 40 years of working in primary schools.

Carmel Halder and Toni-Gaye Bush began their teaching careers in the early 1980s and have spent most of their time at Saints Peter and Paul’s Primary School, Goulburn.

Toni-Gaye came through the Goulburn Teachers College.

“In those days, we completed two practicums each year in schools all over NSW,” she said. “You were billeted out for two to four weeks with families who welcomed you into their homes for the duration of your practicum.”

Meanwhile, Carmel attended the Catholic Teachers College in North Sydney, which later alerted her to a vacancy at St Mary’s Primary School in Crookwell.

Was she interested? “Oh, yes,” she said, a little unsure of what to say. “I remember getting off the phone and saying, ‘Hey, Dad, where’s Crookwell?’” Carmel said.

READ ALSO Wise words on education from military era teacher

The youngest of four children, Carmel travelled with her parents the next day for an interview at St Mary’s with Sister Beverly and the parish priest.

“It was the best time, it was a lovely school and loveliest people to work for and with,” Carmel said.

Toni-Gaye began her career at Mt Carmel Primary School in Yass and following her marriage moved back to Goulburn to teach, first at Our Lady of Mercy, which then merged with St Patrick’s Primary School to become Saints Peter and Paul’s Primary School.

“Jacki Kruger was our deputy principal when I first started teaching in Goulburn,” Toni-Gaye said. “I taught with her on the Ss Peter and Paul’s Verner Street campus for 15 years. Jacki is an absolutely amazing lady and was the most incredible educator.

“We taught kindergarten together and I learnt so much about teaching, understanding the different ways children learn and developing my ability to really get to know each child as an individual. Jacki was an inspirational teacher and we are still great friends today.”

Carmel had exceptional mentors too.

“At St Mary’s, Barbara Perrau, a beautiful lady, was just like a second mother who took me under her wing, and at Peter and Paul’s, Kathy Klem was a wonderful mentor. She was someone you could turn to when you needed help because she had been teaching before I had.”

The long-serving teachers have worked through constant change.

“The introduction of technology within the classrooms and for programming has been a massive change for me,” Toni-Gaye said.

three women

Kathy Neely, who is celebrating 25 years as a principal, with Carmel Halder and Toni-Gaye Bush.

“Our reports, class programs and assessments were always handwritten. Now, all of the administration work teachers have to do is on computers.”

Carmel said in the early days of her career, no relief was available from face-to-face teaching, whereas these days there is, and today’s children crave to use Chromebooks and iPads.

“Children have changed, they are a bit more street-smart, they seem to get older younger than they were back in the day,” Carmel said.

“When you first started kindergarten, it was more like preschool is now. Year 1 was more like kindergarten. But now, there are more advancements in what they have to learn and how much they have to learn.”

Watching generations of children grow and learn and keep in contact with the two long-serving teachers has been their richest reward.

READ ALSO Rare cancer plunges assistant principal into race for his life

“It’s the long-standing connections,” Toni-Gaye said. “Having ex-students come up to me in the street and tell me what they are doing in their lives is so special. When they recall being in my class and remember something about that time, I feel very grateful that I had the chance to be a small part of their life.”

Carmel now works as a casual teacher, and returning to school after an absence is joyful because her pupils are happy to see her and welcome her back.

“I have enjoyed watching children I have taught progress through the school system and see them now with their own children, or hear from their parents that they are doing so well in their chosen careers or just enjoying life,” Carmel said.

“Knowing hopefully I have made a difference to some children’s lives. I can walk down the street and ex-pupils say, ‘Hello, Mrs Halder’.”

Carmel and Toni-Gaye were the toast of their colleagues, including past principal Mick Kerin, at a lunch on Saturday (27 May). Celebrations featured a video montage of best wishes from their peers past and present, organised by staff members Cassie Harris and Louise Seaman.

Ss Peter and Paul’s principal Kathy Neely’s 25 years of teaching in a principal’s role was also acknowledged at a school that values and celebrates its long-serving staff.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.