Meet Judy Graham, the Principal of Ben Venue Public School. Her commitment to teaching is still strong today, as she celebrates almost 40 years in education. Judy explains why she believes at school “great things happen all the time”.
Tell us about your training to become a teacher …
My initial teacher training was from 1970 – 1973 in Lismore at the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education – which is now the Southern Cross University.
Since that time I have studied through the University of Technology of Sydney and the University of New England in Mentoring, Management areas and Gender Equity.
How has your career progressed to your current position?
I have spent most of my teaching life in the New England area, commencing at Drummond Memorial School in 1974. It was a very large school, with around 500 students at that time.
I spent eighteen happy years at Drummond and I am now welcoming some of those students as parents of children in 2010 – that’s one of the rewarding things that happen when you remain in the same area.
I became Assistant Principal at Walcha Central School in 1992 and remained there for five years in a wonderful school community, before taking up a newly created position as Middle Years Literacy Consultant based at the Armidale District Office.
I worked in six districts, from Muswellbrook up to Tweed Heads and as far west as Goodooga. The position was based in the middle years of schooling and involved the promotion of literacy across the curriculum, especially in high schools.
After covering sometimes up to 1,800 km in a week, I was ready to move to another position after two years.
My next school position was as the Principal of Glen Innes West Infants School – a unique educational entity, as the school had around 80 students, all Kindergarten to Year 2. I was a teaching Principal (P5) and enjoyed the challenge of moving from working with Year 5 to Year 8 students, to students aged from 5 years to 8 years – quite a change!
I transferred to Ben Venue as the Deputy Principal in 1993, and moved to the position of Principal in 1996. Although it is at times a very demanding position, I enjoy my role – especially the daily interactions with students from a variety of backgrounds.
A smile and a chat with a student walking into school can make my day.
I used to be very involved in music and dance, but in my present position this involvement is not possible anymore. However, it makes me fully appreciate the time and energy it takes for teachers to be involved in these activities.
How many students attend Ben Venue?
There are around 550 students enrolled at the moment, with an increasing number of students moving in and out as families move to and from Armidale around employment opportunities. Ben Venue staff are very supportive of school initiatives, and they combine to offer students many opportunities by giving of their time unstintingly before school, at lunchtimes and after hours.
Ben Venue teachers run a Junior and Senior Choir, Year 6 Marimba Group, Junior and Senior Circus Group, Chess Club, Talented Athletes Group, e-GATS (Gifted and Talented Students) groups, an orchestra and various dance groups.
Many teachers are involved with coaching at school. PSSA and North West level in Girls and Boys Soccer, Girls and Boys Hockey, Touch Football, Rugby Union, Swimming, and Netball. It’s no wonder I say it’s a school where great things are happening all the time.
There is a vibrant energy in the school, where students are offered many opportunities … some like the recent performance at the Opera House, which are possibly once in a lifetime experiences.
You’ve had a number of successful school programs?
In August, 44 students performed at the Opera House at the Australis Concert. Students were part of the combined Choral Choir, and the Year 6 Marimbas were chosen to play as an individual item for the same concert. It was a spectacular performance, and the nervous and excited students will always remember this evening. I felt very proud to be in the audience.
Ben Venue teachers, along with others in the Armidale Community of Schools, prepared and presented student performances at the recent Arts in Concert, and the talent on display over the two evenings in August was outstanding. At a school level, the annual, very popular Starmaker Quest once again unearthed many students with amazing talents, who seem to wait for this quest to give a polished and entertaining performance. Students, teachers and parents enjoy this increasingly theatrical event – especially the Grand Final.
6M has recently commenced a major cultural sharing with Gyeongin Primary School in Korea. Students from both schools are preparing to share, using digital technology, significant cultural aspects about schooling and life in both countries. Students have a high interest in the project and are already developing cultural understandings about the Korean school students through videoconferencing and online discussions.
Ben Venue is presently part of the Building Education Revolution (BER), and many new facilities and refurbishments are well underway. I believe this is a significant and worthwhile program, and I applaud what it is delivering to our schools.
There are many exciting things coming up on the school calendar, like the Art Exhibition and end of year activities and presentations by Year 6. Kindergarten students will commence their Orientation program of activities in October, and the usual end of year moderating, assessment and reporting will commence. Before we realise it will be 2011, and we will begin to think about new experiences and opportunities.
Thank you Judy.