Local legend realises teaching dream in retirement

The presentation of a 2022 Year 12 jersey is a mark of pride for a long-term school volunteer, writes Kathleen Ferguson.

Image: Take note: David Ridgewell volunteering at Manilla Central School.

In the small rural town of Manilla, community is being used as a powerful tool to engage, inspire and nurture students.

The Manilla Central School community is strong, and at its core is a man so dedicated to learning he spends his retirement as a full-time volunteer at the high school.

David Ridgewell OAM is well known in the community, working for many years for the local council in parks and gardens roles.

He also volunteers his time and expert driving knowledge to young learner drivers in the community seeking to secure their 120 hours on the road when practising for their provisional licence test.

However, for Mr Ridgewell helping out in the classroom is also bringing his own dreams to life.

“I always had the inkling to become a school teacher but sadly it didn’t occur and I have had a passion for history and geography,” Mr Ridgewell said.

The septuagenarian was convinced as a young man that a speech impediment would affect his ability to teach.

“I remember my dad begged me to go to teacher’s college but I wouldn’t go because of the speech impediment and it changed everything as far as my career was concerned but that didn’t matter,” he said.

He started volunteering at Manilla Central School in the 1990s, and hasn’t looked back since. He now helps with English and Modern and Ancient History classes as well as tending the canteen.

Volunteering at the school not only gave him purpose, Mr Ridgewell said it kept him connected to his community.

“I just love coming to school to help, it’s so important,” he said. “To know everybody like I know these kids, it’s very important to me and it is very important to my daily being actually.”

It is a sentiment that is shared by Manilla Central School students with the staff and students recently presenting him with a school jersey as a thank you

“It’s a 2022 year 12 [jersey] with my name on the back and ‘mentor’ on the front,” he said.

He said volunteering at the school and sharing his passion kept him grounded.

He said the care and commitment of the school’s teachers is what inspires him.

“Even though there is not a huge number of pupils, the teachers treat them like their own family and it’s just beautiful.”

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