Vicki recognised for 42 years in education

October 14th, 2022Vicki recognised for 42 years in education

CRESWICK Primary School teacher Vicki Hughes has just clocked up 42 years of service to education – and has the certificate to prove it.

Earlier this year the state government awarded Vicki a personalised Certificate of Recognition and commemorative booklet but she’s taking the attention all in her stride.

“We were called down to Melbourne and had our presentation at the Grand Hyatt Hotel ballroom,” Vicki said.

“They gave us afternoon tea (and) the (then) Education Minister James Merlino did the presentation and made a big speech. But it doesn’t change anything,” she added.

“I normally keep anything like this very low key because I just enjoy what I’m doing. And even coming off Covid and remote learning, I’m just as enthusiastic about coming in every day as I was back in 1980.”

Vicki completed her Diploma of Education at the Ballarat College of Advanced Education (BCAE) graduating in 1979. Her first placement was the following year as the sole teacher at Ross Bridge: a little school between Ararat and Lake Bolac.

“It was quite exciting to think ‘I’m going to be here, first year out with 21 children from prep to grade six’,” she says.

 “And it was an absolutely brilliant first year. I think it was the best way to learn because everything was on you. As well as teaching, you had to be the cleaner, bookkeeper and liaise with the parents. You were the hub of the community.”

The following year, Vicki went to another single teacher school at Lake Burrumbeet before going on to Linton, Haddon, Smythesdale, Scarsdale, Cape Clear, Linton, Brewster, Ross Creek, Windermere, Trawalla as a shared specialist and finally Creswick Primary school where she has taught for the past 30 years.

In that time Vicki has seen the practice of education evolve and change. For example new programs have often been very cyclic with a lot of fundamental things being reinvented; particularly with literacy and mathematics. But they seem to go back to the same old or similar ways of doing things to get the best practice out of both teachers and students.

“Fundamentals are important and pupils need to continue learning them; reading aloud to someone, talking about what they are doing, learning their mathematics tables. Life’s a lot easier when you go back to those basic skills and learn to do the hard yards.”

She has also seen greater stresses being put onto parents. While many now need to work longer hours they also have greater demands placed on them as far as aligning activities for their children.

“It’s almost like every day they are expected to organise something for them,” she says. The other significant change Vicki has noticed is the emergence of the internet along with social media and gaming as being of stronger interest to children today.

“It has certainly had an impact on the children and what they do in their own time,” says Vicki. “In my initial schools, kids would be outside the whole time, running, playing football. That’s not to say it isn’t happening now but there is a lot of screen time intruding into their time along with the isolation that goes with it.

“Often they are not actually getting out and communicating in a face-to-face situation. They are certainly communicating across their devices but it’s different.”

Reflecting on her long career Vicki has the memory of countless enjoyable moments.  She can still name all 21 students from her first teaching position at Ross Bridge, with one of those inspired to become a teacher because of her. Vicki was also lucky enough to teach tennis player Zoe Hives, race walker Jared Tallent and lawyer Julia McGrath, Liberal Democrats candidate for Ballarat in the 2022 federal election.

“I try to remain in contact with a lot of my ex-students and at Creswick in particular I am now teaching some of the children of children I originally taught when I first arrived here. And it is really lovely to see how their lives have developed. Also you can have a lightbulb moment with any child at any time and that pleases me still.”

Words: Tony Sawrey | Image: Kyle Barnes

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