Legendary teacher retires

All class: Retiring Valley teacher John Duck with Moe South Street primary kids Natalie Hersey and Maliyah McKay. photogrpah michelle slater



A LONG-STANDING Trafalgar school teacher is capping his whiteboard marker for the last time after half a century in the game.

John Duck retired last week with a farewell lunch at Moe South Street Primary School after 50 years of continual teaching at various Latrobe Valley schools.

The 70-year-old moved to the Valley from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne to take up his first job, aged 20, at Elizabeth Street primary in Moe.

“It was a culture shock, it was different. The Valley was more working class then, it was a bit rougher, the kids could be challenging,” Mr Duck said.

“There some challenging times but I grew into my job and liked it. I had no thought of doing anything else. But it’s time to retire.”

Mr Duck went on to work as a PE specialist and district relief teacher at many Valley schools, but was mainly based at Willow Grove and South Street primary schools for many years.

The former marathon runner also used his passion to start-up the Gippsland Primary Schools Sports Camp at Rawson, and ran it for 25 years with the now retired Grey Street primary teacher Ranier Verlaan.

The three-day camp was for Grade 5 and 6 Valley kids to receive specialist coaching from experts and is still operating with about 100 youngsters going through each year.

“I taught at about 50 different schools as a district reliever. Walking into different schools is challenging and I did a huge range of jobs,” Mr Duck said.

“You can be asked to teach Prep Grade one day and art or music the next, you had to be very flexible. One of the enjoyments is you meet so many people at so many schools.

“At South Street and Willow Grove I’m regarded as one of the staff, but this is not always the case when you drift in-and-out.”

Mr Duck focussed on relief teaching a few days a week in the latter years, which enabled him to keep involved in the classroom.

He said many schools were crying-out for good relief teachers but also acknowledged the added pressures in the profession in the past few years.

“There’s a huge scarcity of casual relief teachers, and with them not being available, a lot of grades are being split up, which is not ideal,” he said.

“Teaching can be hard but it’s very rewarding, I’ve seen some amazing teachers in recent times, I’m full of admiration for current teachers.

“The system is set up so we don’t get bad teachers, the process ensures only good teachers get jobs but the problem is we are losing good teachers because of the intensity of the job.”