By Jade Lawton
MERRILEE Pawley’s last day at Pakenham Consolidated School on Friday will truly be the end of an era.
Mrs Pawley, who is retiring after 20 years teaching at the Pakenham primary school, has taught hundreds of kids.
But her links with the school go back even further than two decades. She attended Pakenham Consolidated herself, learning her a, b and c’s at PCS when the school was in Main Street.
Her mother, Nina Keys, went to Pakenham Primary School, one of the precursors to the consolidated school.
“My mother used to talk about boys putting her pigtails in the inkwell,” Mrs Pawley said. “When I was in school we still had those inkwells.”
Mrs Pawley’s sister, Robyn, attended PCS, as did her children Jacqueline, Belinda and Nicholas and Robyn’s children Paula, Lauren and Bree. Mrs Pawley didn’t teach any of those six, as she was teaching with Minibah then, but she has seen hundreds of other locals go through primary school.
“The most enjoyable thing is to see the students progress through the school, to see how they develop and change,” Mrs Pawley said.
“The maturity they go through, it’s just a wonderful thing,”
Mrs Pawley’s teaching career began when she taught pre-school at Kooweerup in 1971. She then worked with special needs children at Minibah for at least 10 years and spent a year at Gembrook Primary School before starting at Pakenham in 1990.
She has taught every class from Prep to Grade 5, art to phys ed, but describes herself as “just a general run of the mill teacher.”
Mrs Pawley said she spots former students everywhere, including when she is doing the grocery shopping or just driving down the street.
“When you live in Pakenham and the students are in Pakenham you see quite a lot of them. It’s interesting,” she said. Highlights over the years include camps, which Mrs Pawley describes as ‘great fun’ and watching the profession develop.
“Teaching has changed, from just opening a book and having students copy it, to being all interactive whiteboards and high technology,” she said.
Her retirement will allow her more time to indulge in her passions, travel and photography. At the start of this year she took long service leave and travelled with husband Bruce from the bottom of South America to Canada. Africa and China are next on the itinerary.
“But I will miss the children and the comradeship with the teachers,” she said.
Although Mrs Pawley has three grandchildren, they live on the other side of Melbourne and will not continue the PCS connection.
Mrs Pawley plans to bow out with as little fanfare as possible.
“I think I’ll just go quietly,” she said.
By Jade Lawton