Harwood Island principal farewells career of daily rewards
HARWOOD Island Public School principal Peggy Eather believes she has left her school in a better position in her final year than her first.
And her pupils also leave her care as better students than when they arrived.
Mrs Eather retired from her 35-year career in teaching on December 18, after spending 11 years as principal/teacher of HIPS, as the school is fondly known.
"We have HIPS, PIPS (Palmers Island Public School), CHIPS (Chatsworth Island) and IPS (Iluka) at the small schools sports carnivals ," she said, referring to the schools serving the small communities on the Clarence River estuary.
When Mrs Eather arrived at HIPS in 2004 the school was struggling to justify its three-teacher staff with a population of just 32.
The 2015 enrolment of 68 and a staff of 3.5 teachers is testament to the improvements that have been made at the school.
In addition each pupil has their own personal computer and there is a suite of iPads available for students to use.
"These are all things that weren't there when I came," Mrs Eather said.
These improvements were a source of pride, but the real rewards of teaching came from the achievements of her pupils at school and once they had moved on, she said.
"Maclean High School had its presentation and there was a former Harwood Island Public School student at the top of the form for nearly every year," Mrs Eather said.
However, it's not just among the high achievers where Mrs Eather has found satisfaction.
Prior to coming to HIPS, she was principal/teacher at Woodford Dale Public School for three years.
"At the end of 2013 I got a phone call from the parent of one of the former students to tell me he had just graduated from Year 10 at Maclean High School," she said.
"When the little fellow first came to school he couldn't read; by the time he left he was reading as well as anyone. Now he looks like he will finish Year 12."
Watching children develop their learning also had its moments.
"When you see a child just get it that all these letters they've been looking at for months actually mean something, that's a real milestone," Mrs Eather said.
"Another milestone is when they get long division.
"You get those rewards just about every day, that's what keeps you in teaching."
She said she loved teaching at small schools because of the way the schools and the community worked together.
"The whole community runs the school as well as the staff," she said.
"The schools are the real hub and heartbeat of the community."