WHEN Pat Brooks talks about her five decades as a teacher, her whole face lights up with delight.
Notching up 50 years in the classroom this year, she has decided to call it a day and will officially retire as the kids walk out of the classroom for the last time this year.
With stints at Koroit, Caramut, North Essendon and Port Fairy in her early years, Mrs Brooks eventually signed on with St Patrick’s Primary School in Camperdown where she notched up 43 years of service.
“I have absolutely loved every minute of it,” she said.
“I love interacting with the children and the staff.
“St Pat’s has been like a second family for me – I’m going to miss it terribly.”
Her ethos remains the same today as it did the day she started – to help each and every child reach their full potential and do the best they could.
“Not every child is going to be a brain surgeon, but they can all still achieve great things in life and be the best person they can be,” Mrs Brooks said.
“Everyone learns in different ways, so a big part of teaching is to zero in on the best way for each child and then provide lots of encouragement.”
Stepping into St Patrick’s for the first time in 1976, Mrs Brooks typically had 40 children in her classes – a ratio that has since levelled out at about 20 children.
“In the early days it was still ‘talk and chalk’ in the classroom but technology has changed everything and information and resources are so much easier to access now,” she said.
“I used to stand in front of the students and talk all day and they’d rarely move from their seats. These days they have a lot more freedom.”
In recent years Mrs Brooks has specifically been involved with ‘boost’ classes for students struggling academically and those who are excelling and need added tuition.
Her years of teaching have seen her hold most leadership roles at the school along with a stint as the overall maths co-ordinator.
“There have been a lot of funny moments too,” Mrs Brooks said.
“I’ll never forget in the early years we invited the kids to bring their pets to be blessed as part of the Feast Day for St Francis of Assisi – there were dogs, cats, goldfish in bowls, even a horse. It was pandemonium – we never did that again!
“There was also the time when one of the students said his cat had followed him to school, so I was asked to walk back home with him to take the cat back. We ended up walking around and around the streets until he finally "fessed up that it wasn’t his cat and he didn’t know where it lived.”
St Patrick’s principal Michael McKenzie said Mrs Brooks’ contribution to the school had been enormous – both in terms of the years given and the quality of her teaching.
“She’s always been able to adapt her game to what’s required and that’s a sign of a great teacher,” he said.
“She has taught all year levels – probably thousands of kids over the years – and has been a huge asset to this school.”
Mr McKenzie said the school had officially recognised her efforts in 2014 when an entire wing of the school was named after her.
“Pat will always be in our thoughts – we’re really going to miss her,” he said.