An outstanding educator

She will probably chastise me for writing about it. Only because she is humble and doesn’t like drawing attention to herself. Especially for well-deserved accolades. And that just makes her even more amazing.

Some people in society like to earn medals. They like to adorn themselves with praise. They frame positive reviews and hang them on the wall (whether real or digital). They study for the qualification certificate, not the learning. They are motivated by the shiny, unimportant rewards. Sometimes they acknowledge others who have helped along the way but are doing so just so seem human, rather than simply being human and genuinely thankful.

Not Sharon.

Sharon is the very epitome of a teacher. She had moved from the country to the city as a child with a family that — typically for the time and still today — followed the working father’s path to provide the best opportunities possible for the family. She began training at a university in Sydney, where her brother was also studying. Teaching was her vocation, not just a job to get or a band aid between other roles.

Sharon taught in Victoria and in New South Wales, over a range of subjects and taking on different promotional positions. She continued her professional learning and engagement, earning postgraduate qualifications from Edith Cowan university and demonstrating that she would never stop learning, even when others did.

Sharon went part time to have kids, which like for many women affected the way in which she engaged with the world of work. Eventually she found herself balancing children and work, which she did with grace and what I know was a lot of patience, dedication and grit.

Sharon took students across the histories of societies, the nature and practice of religions, the geography of the world, the language and magic of mathematics, and many other areas. She escorted students on excursions, often organising them herself. She supervised detention, walked around on yard duties, sat through staff meetings, ran or participated in team meetings, mentoring sessions, professional development and, of course, CPR training.

Sharon did what all great school teachers do: cultivated a spirit of learning in young people. She took on the increasing administrative burdens of modern teachers: the assessments, the programming, the planning, the accountability, the documentation. She sought opportunities to broaden the students’ experiences: ANZAC Day ceremonies, special awards, masses, guest speakers.

Sharon has spent a million hours on very ordinary and hugely important work. The clock tick-tocking away as she marked yet more essays. The sun setting as she planned interesting units of work. Dinner cooking while she finished checking her emails.

Sharon was last night recognised by the Diocese of Broken Bay in Sydney for her 40 years of commitment to Catholic education. It was a small gesture of a system that has gained such a deep and ongoing gift of her time, skill, imagination and expertise. Over 1000 people sat in the audience to recognise Sharon and her colleagues. However, it would take many times that amount to house the number of people whose lives she has touched.

I was so very proud of her as I watched her ascend the stage and be recognised — much too briefly in my mind — of her contribution to humanity. So very proud of an outstanding educator. So very proud of my mum.

If you do nothing else after reading this, just think about a teacher who made a difference in your life and try to reach out to them. They don’t expect praise, but a thank you wouldn’t go astray.

My Uncle Paul, Sharon and me. All educators.