They’ve seen blackboards and chalk replaced by high tech classroom gadgets, even taught the children of former students, but now “School’s out” for long serving teachers, Mr David Tye and Mr Gerald Wright.
Between them, the Nuriootpa and Kapunda High School teaching colleagues have clocked up more than 90 years educating secondary students and both agree they felt “it was time” to retire.
Gerald, an Agriculture teacher, said he was a student at high school when there was a critical shortage in teachers as the “Baby Boomer” generation arrived.
“To counter this shortage the Government offered scholarships to do university study and become teachers with the understanding we would complete at least three years of teaching – the bonded teacher’s scheme,” Gerald explained.
“Unlike today’s graduates, I had no HECS debt and a permanent appointment!”
The scheme paved the way to a career spanning 50 years, with Gerald commencing at Yorketown where he helped introduce Agricultural Studies into the curriculum and also met his future wife, Viv a fellow teacher.
“I can highly recommend teaching in the country, I experienced generous hospitality and made lifelong friends,” Gerald said of the experience, vastly different from that which he had at his next school, Smithfield Plains.
“It was challenging with so many disadvantaged students. On the upside, I was one of a number of staff who supported the strong basketball interest of the students…The highlight was that I felt my efforts were very much appreciated by many students.”
When the Education Department brought in a 10-year tenure rule to promote the movement of teachers, Gerald applied for a position at Eudunda Area School and the family moved to Kapunda.
Then, at the end of one year at Eudunda he took a job at Kapunda High.
“I enjoyed a wonderful 19 years there, improving the agriculture facilities and organising fundraising to enable students to do voyages on the ‘One and All’ sail training ship, organising Business Week, supporting students to prepare and exhibit Led Steers with them achieving four Grand Champion Led Steer awards.”
In 2010 Gerald won the position of Agriculture and Horticulture Studies Co-ordinator at Nuriootpa High School where he spent the next 11½ years until retiring at the end of last term.
“I continued my interest in the Led Steer programme and it has been gratifying to see former students pursuing careers in Agriculture, Animal Science and Veterinary Science,” said the now 68 year old.
“It has been a pleasure to work in a larger school with a group of Agriculture teachers after spending most of my career as the only agriculture teacher in the school.
“I have very much enjoyed working with the next generation, but the time has come to follow some of my other interests.”
Meanwhile, David began his teaching career in 1978 and still remembers his first job at Port Augusta before transferring to the Barossa with his late wife, Kay who was a primary school teacher.
“I remember this moment, sitting in front of my home class at the start of the new year thinking, what do I do now? How did I get here?” Laughed David.
But his sense of humour and ability to overcome adversity meant David can now look back on his career with a sense of pride.
“It wasn’t easy for me at college, I was never any good at essay writing and I didn’t have a lot of self belief or confidence,” he admitted.
“Over the years, by taking on challenges and doing things you never thought you could do, you are able to grow through that and I believe I’ve done myself proud.”
David arrived in the Barossa in 1987 where he and his family settled happily.
“I was at Nuriootpa High School from then until the end of 1995; went to Kapunda High School from 1996 until 2014 and came back to Nuri. to finish my days!” he said.
“Mathematics was a subject I was always most passionate about above anything else, although I did a variety of things. I was a co-ordinator from ’97 until the end of 2013, I was an IT manager for 5 years and did maths time tabling and behaviour management.”
But the now 66 year old was in his element when bringing out the best in students.
“For me, it was always about having fun in the classroom, building relationships with kids in a positive way and hoping they would take on board some of the wisdom, knowledge and skills I would impart on them,” David said.
“The best relationships are when you are working with children and they want to work with you and that has been what I’ve been pretty good at. Enjoyment comes from being part of the Barossa community, doing something you really enjoy doing and feeling like you’ve earned respect and are appreciated for what you’ve done.”
David is now ready to become “a bit of a nomad” with plans to buy a campervan, but he has to smile as he closes this chapter of his life and embarks on the next.
“In the last 5 years I’ve been teaching, I’ve been working alongside 20 people who I’ve taught, it’s quite bizarre!” he laughed.
“Being in retirement is a little harder for me than going to work… At school they give you a timetable and you do it. Now I am a little lost but I will embrace retirement, enjoy trips and life, spending more time being with family and friends.”