A beacon for the community

Tony Sheumack has left a lasting legacy at Beaconhills College and has mixed feelings about finishing up at the end of the year. Pics: SUPPLIED

Some people are just natural born leaders, and Tony Sheumack is certainly one of them. For almost a quarter of a century now, Mr Sheumack has been passionately leading the way for the Beaconhills College community and has helped shape the lives of many along the way. At the end of this year, Mr Sheumack will be stepping down as the school’s Headmaster, and he took a moment to reflect on his time at the college with Gazette journalist, GABRIELLA PAYNE.

Beaconhills College, a prestigious Pakenham secondary school, will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2022 and it’s remarkable to think that Tony Sheumack has been at the helm for the majority of the school’s existence – but then again, Mr Sheumack is a remarkable man.

At the end of this year, Mr Sheumack will be leaving some very large shoes to fill as he steps down from the top role after 24 years in the position – a decision that he is having “mixed feelings” about, but knows is the right one to make.

“It’s been a great privilege to be able to be involved and lead Beaconhills College for such a long period of time,” Mr Sheumack said.

“I feel a great lot of pride and satisfaction in being part of what I feel is a very successful school and a beautiful community, so that’s one side of it – but the other side of it is that I’m not sure what the next stage of my career and my life have to offer, so there’s a little bit of apprehension for the next stage, but I’ve certainly been delighted to have been part of Beaconhills for such a long time.”

Having been born in Bega, NSW, Mr Sheumack spent his childhood moving around country Victoria with his family, spending his younger years in Kyabram and attending secondary school in Bendigo, before moving to Melbourne for university.

While education wasn’t a career path that Mr Sheumack had ever envisioned for himself, it was something he quickly gained interest in and after completing his Bachelor of Science and DipEd at La Trobe University, the idea of teaching became a key goal of his.

“I remember being at university without a lot of direction at the time, I didn’t know where I would go [career wise] and education just was one of the opportunities that presented itself to me,” Mr Sheumack said.

“I knew I loved being a teacher pretty much after my first time in a classroom, so it was the practical experience that really made me believe that that would be where my career would go.”

Mr Sheumack said that when he started out back in the late ‘70s, he was lucky enough to be a part of the commonwealth’s scholarship program for teachers, and landed his first job as a maths teacher at Prahran High School.

He taught in the government schooling system for about a decade before moving on in 1979 to a new role at Bendigo’s Girton College, where he began work as the head of maths and head of the boarding school.

During this time, Mr Sheumack completed a Masters of Educational Administration at the University of New England before stepping up as the deputy principal at the new Girton Grammar in 1993.

It was four years later, while looking to take the next step in his career, that Mr Sheumack successfully applied for the position of headmaster at Beaconhills College, taking over from Rick Tudor – and it seems the rest is history.

Mr Sheumack said that he had been drawn to the college as it presented a new challenge in his career and he liked the endless potential the young, growing school had to offer.

“Here I could see the opportunity to create a vision and develop it,” Mr Sheumack said, in a recent interview with the school magazine, Luceat.

Over the years, Mr Sheumack has no doubt left a lasting legacy at the school and inspired both staff and students to be the best that they can be.

Although there have been too many memorable moments for Mr Sheumack to name a favourite, in his time at the college he has been a part of many incredible initiatives, from school sausage sizzles to volunteering at the Vinnie’s soup van, from visiting children in Bangladesh to walking circuits for Relay for Life – you name it, Mr Sheumack is always the first one to get involved.

“I’ve just been fortunate to have been a part of the school community for such a long time that there’s not just one particular special event that stands out, but there’s certainly lots and lots of stages that I’ve been very proudly a part of as the school’s grown and changed,” he said.

A humble leader, he’s not one to toot his own horn, but Mr Sheumack has certainly made a huge impact in the lives of many over the years and can safely hand over the headmaster position to his successor with his head held high.

A keen lover of travel, Mr Sheumack said that his plans after he finished weren’t set in stone as yet, but he would love to take the time to do some more overseas travel, spend time with his family and put his feet up and relax a little.

“I think that at the top of my list pre-Covid would have been a lot more travel and being able to visit places around the world that I’ve always wanted to go – but I think that will have to wait a little bit now, as we’re not sure if those things will be possible,” he said.

“So initially, it will just be more time with family and being able to explore more locally, but longer term, more travel internationally will be something that I really look forward to.”

There’s no doubt Mr Sheumack will be sorely missed around the Beaconhills campus, but the exemplary educator clearly deserves a well earned rest and he’ll always have the love of the entire school community behind him.