80 years on, beloved Dell celebrates 'working with lions'
WHEN she was a little girl, Dell Rathbone wanted to be a vet and work with lions.
Her life didn't quite turn out that way, but Dell maintains she deals with lions every day.
Nursing and teaching were the most popular career paths for women in Dell's era.
She chose the latter.
This week, Dell's West Moreton Anglican College workmates surprised her with a party to celebrate her 80th birthday.
It was an occasion to remember, not just for Dell but for the teachers, students and staff who have worked alongside her for many years.
Dell works with international students and each one of them holds a special place in her heart.
After learning the ropes in country Queensland, Dell came back to Ipswich in 1973 - after 18 years in rural towns.
Dell is from Toowong. She went to Brisbane Girls' Grammar school and her father was a celebrated academic.
When she graduated Dell moved to Texas, a little town on the Queensland, NSW border.
"It was a wild little town when I got there," Dell said.
"I definitely experienced culture shock going to a very small country area from an academic city background.
"At the time, they were building the weir at Yelarbon. Texas was a town that flooded all the time so I used to regularly teach the kids to swim.
"Every Friday we would go down, make sure the river was safe, then swim.
"It bothered me that these children lived in a flood-prone town along the river and didn't learn to swim."
Dell draws on that experience of culture shock in the job she does today, helping international students find their footing in a foreign place.
She ensures those students have the emotional support need to survive.
"I remember one boy. When he was grown up, he came up to me and asked about the title of a book I read to him," Dell said.
"He said, 'I want to read it to my son'.
"The idea that I had taught a child who was then reading the same book to his children... that's probably one of the best things we can do as teachers."