Celebrating Victoria’s longest-serving teachers

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Richard Geddes remembers his mother encouraging him to become a teacher. 55 years later, the English and history teacher from Camberwell High School was one of 304 Victorian educators honoured for their incredible commitment to teaching at the 2023 Recognition of Service to Victorian Education event held in Melbourne on 21 May.

The annual service recognition award celebrates dedication, loyalty and longevity of service to the Department of Education, with a majority of recipients being teachers.

Overall , 172 eligible recipients were recognised for 40 years of their service, 78 for 45 years, 45 for 50 years and nine for 55 years.

“Whether they taught in classrooms or worked in an office supporting schools, everyone receiving recognition for their service to Victorian education has helped deliver a world-class education to generations of Victorians,” Minister for Education, Natalie Hutchins said.

- Advertisement -

Dedication to education

Some schools celebrated multiple award recipients, including:

This year’s award recipients also included 40-year education sector veteran Beverly Hansen – now the Principal at Dandenong West Primary School – and physics and maths teacher, Farid Anawati, who has been a celebrated and continued part of Western Heights Secondary College for 55 years.

An education sector evolution

The year Richard Geddes began teaching, John Gorton was sworn in as Prime Minister of Australia after the disappearance of Harold Holt,  anti-Vietnam war protesters were being arrested on the streets of our nation’s cities and Melbourne’s iconic National Gallery of Victoria opened its doors for the first time.

Through his decades spent as a teacher, Mr Geddes says he has seen many changes – and not always positive.

- Advertisement -

“The impact of the digital world has made access to information easier, but has reduced considered processing of that information,” he told EducationDaily. “Students today are less likely to read newspapers and rely on social media and television for their access to news. They have less time and less control over pausing and considering the information presented to them.”

Teaching, he says, has become “a bit harder these last couple of years”.

“The behaviour of a minority of students is more confrontational, by default,” says Mr Geddes. “Perhaps the lock-down years of COVID have robbed them of some of the socialising influences of grades four, five and six at primary school, because they are louder and less considerate of each other than I have seen before. As they enter puberty, some of them can be more difficult for teachers to manage in the classroom situation.”

Other changes, Mr Geddes says, include the attitudes of parents, who he says seem less supportive of the teachers of their children than they were when he started teaching.

“They are inclined to support their child, regardless of the circumstances,” he says.

- Advertisement -

Despite these occasional challenges, he says he loves teaching because he enjoys being with people, as well as the “contradictions that teenagers often present”.

“They are inclined to present as bold and confident when they are most vulnerable,” he says.

Mr Geddes also enjoy the “sparks of recognition that you sometimes see when they understand something for the first time”.

The connections he’s made with his teaching colleagues continues to give him great support – and happiness.

“People who enter professions like teaching and nursing are just that little bit different and are likely to be driven by caring and the more noble values,” he says.

- Advertisement -

When it comes to sharing advice for new teachers about to enter the sector, Mr Geddes says he would start by asking them some important questions:

“Is it important to you to make a positive contribution to society? Do you like people? Are you patient and tolerant of others? Are you resilient and persistent?”

If they answer ‘yes’, Mr Geddes believes that teaching could be the ideal career.

“Teachers play a very significant role in the lives of their students, and most people remember their teachers throughout their lives. However, you should also remember that you are just one of a combination of influences on students and you are not responsible for working miracles,” he says.

With 55 years spent as an enduring influencer, Mr Geddes has no current plans to retire just yet.

“Teaching keeps me in touch with all the generations,” he says. “I can see no reason why I should retire while I am enjoying teaching.”

- Advertisement -
Share This Article
Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live