School veterans honoured for 3000 years of service

An elite group of teachers and education staff have been acknowledged for their 50 year-plus service milestones. Glenn Cullen reports.

A man with a woman holding a trophy. A man with a woman holding a trophy.
Image: Macquarie Fields Head Teacher Perry Celestino with Deputy Premier Prue Car.

Even before he was a teenager, New York born Perry Celestino thought he’d be a teacher; he just never imagined doing it on the other side of the world for more than 50 years.

The Macquarie Fields High School Head Teacher came to Australia during a national teacher shortage in 1973 – and never left.

“I was a 23-year-old and wanted to see the world,” said Mr Celestino, one of 59 NSW Department of Education staff with 50 or more years’ service who were formally acknowledged at a Service Recognition Dinner on Thursday.

“I fell in love with teaching straight away and also with the Australian way of life.”

Starting off at Cumberland High School, Mr Celestino quickly became involved in helping to steer the curriculum, developing the first high school anthropology course in the state.

At Macquarie Fields High School he established and ran the highly successful Future Teachers Club, a first of its kind in Australia and with more than 1400 members to date.

Mr Celestino, who will return to the school in 2024, said he keeps things fresh by “trying to do something new every year”.

“I don’t want to sit around and play bowls,” he said with a laugh.

The Service Recognition Dinner was instituted for 2023, with the Department’s Chief People Officer Shaun Ruming instrumental in formalising the occasion.

It was determined that 50 years of service would be the marker, with 59 staff members meeting the qualifying criteria for 2023.

NSW Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar paid tribute to the group who had logged more than 3000 years of teaching in NSW.

“During a year in which we’ve marked 175 years of public education in NSW, it’s fitting that we now celebrate significant individual milestones from people who have given so significantly to public education in this state,” he said.

“So much passion and sacrifice go into the teaching profession and many other roles within public education, and I’d like to personally acknowledge and congratulate each of these 59 wonderful ambassadors.

“Ultimately, it’s the students that benefit from their vast experience, depth of knowledge and commitment to helping multiple generations to learn – and for that we are incredibly thankful.”

A woman and two men sitting at a table. A woman and two men sitting at a table.
Image: Brothers Leo and Graham Hudson have racked up more than a century of service between them at the NSW Department of Education.

From across Sydney to the NSW coast and the bush, the backdrops may be a little different but the passion for teaching stands out.

There’s the story of the Hudson brothers – Leo (Toronto High School) and Graham (Dungog High School) who have racked up more than a century between them in NSW public education, but only got to teach together during the COVID pandemic.

Then there’s widely admired Bellevue Hill Public School principal Sue Bennett who works alongside Delma de Kantzow, another half centurion who divides her time between there and Glenmore Road Public School as a school counsellor.

And of course, Burwood Girls High School Principal Mia Kumar, with 54 years in the Department and an enduring passion for girls in STEM learning.

“There is a place for everyone to excel at something in public education,” Ms Kumar said.

In the country, the pace of life may be different but the rewards of impacting a young life are much the same.

Lynette Willett has worked as a school administrative support staff member under eight principals at Corowa High School since 1971.

“I can’t believe it has been 52 years, but I’m still enjoying it and don’t have any plans to move on,” Ms Willett said.

“I have formed lifelong friendships over this time with many of my Corowa High School colleagues.

“The students have always been lovely, friendly, respectful and good-humoured country kids.”

A principal in a classroom. A principal in a classroom.
Image: Burwood Girls High Principal Mia Kumar is an institution at the school.

Aina Martin

Andrea Connell

Ann Barry

Colleen Hayward

Delma de Kantzow

Denis Weiss

Dorothy (Lauraine) Cunningham

Douglas Creighton

Douglas Meaney

Elizabeth Tyndall

Estelle Harman

Fayleen Browning

Garry McEwin

George Giugni

Graham Hudson

Gwenda Payne

Ian Denton

Janne Schill

Jennifer Anderson

Jill James

Joan Kahl

John Duffy

John Quinnell

Judith Hyland

Julie Smith

Kathleen Hooper

Kathleen Prudence

Keri-Maree Allen

Dr Kristine Bajuk

Kristine Hudswell

Leo Hudson

Lilias Brown

Lorelei Morris

Lynette Thomas

Lynette Willett

Lynette Williams

Lynn McClenahan

Madeleine Finch

Malcolm McDonald

Mia Kumar

Michael Kicielinski

Miroslav Zivanovic

Naassa Duar

Patricia Williams

Paul McFadden

Perry Celestino

Peter Swain

Robert Beattie

Robyn Sheen

Rosemary Kent

Ruth Elston

Sandra Palmer

Sharon Iacono

Suzanne Bennett

Suzanne Ranger

Therese Kenway

Veronica Bourke

Wendy Norton

Dorothy Hemming

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