Why this Ipswich teacher deserves a medal

LAST DAY: Blair State School teacher Helen Connor receives a guard of honour from students after retiring after 56 years of service.
LAST DAY: Blair State School teacher Helen Connor receives a guard of honour from students after retiring after 56 years of service. Rob Williams

TEACHERS have a long way to travel and promises to keep.

It is the Robert Frost poem which inspired Blair State School teacher Helen Connor when she began teaching 56 years ago, and words which guided her through the school gates for the last time on Friday.

Blair State School children and teachers farewelled Ms Connor as she swapped her teaching days for a retirement filled with poetry, sculpture, gardening, patchwork and reading.

Ms Connor spent the last 25 years of her 56 year teaching career at Blair, years she said were inspired by her own love of learning.

"Most people look forward to their retirement but I didn't because I really love teaching children and I think that's why I've been here for so long," she said.

"But it comes the time when I'm running out of weekends and now is the time that I can go and travel and do all the other things because I have lots of hobbies. Now I can do them all in more leisure.

"I bought a piano ages ago and now I'll be able to learn more than Lavenders Blue Dilly Dilly and I'll find some children somewhere that need to be taught."

Ms Connor said while she had taught all over the world and in countless classrooms, the poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost best described her career.

"He has a long way to travel and I have promises to keep, I have promises to keep, I think that's what we do as teachers, we commit ourselves to learning and we have promises to keep," she said.

"The children still respond to the same things and they are still a delight. That's why I've been able to do it for so long because the children sort of energise you and you see hope for them, you can set them on their journey.

"I love learning myself and I wanted to pass on that love for learning because then you're never bored. It's the saviour for many people."

Long time colleague and retired teacher Diane Thomson said the school had a tough job ahead in filling the gap Ms Connor would leave.

"The wonderful thing is teachers are committed and even though we leave, there is a whole stack behind us coming up. I think we leave schools in good hands," Ms Thomson said.

Blair State School principle Peter Lund said Ms Connor would leave a legacy at the school and she was a "credit to the teaching ranks".

"She's so young at heart because she has worked with young children for so long, her passion is to be with young kids and get them to learn," Mr Lund said

"When you talk to her about teaching and learning she lights up inside. One of the hardest things for her in making her decision to retire is to leave all the behind.

"These days it's all about reading and writing and the mechanics of learning but Helen has always appreciated that love of learning and tried to express that with the kids."

Topics:  blair state school retirement teacher

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