October was a month of shared celebration and pride for teacher Bernadette Baker as she marked 40 years as a Union member, and it’s more than likely the IEU will be awarding her with a 50 year badge.
After taking Arts and Education at Macquarie University (Bernadette was in the first intake of university trained teacher librarians), she started teaching in 1979 at St Patrick’s Primary School Sutherland, and has spent the last 30 years at Holy Cross Primary School Helensburgh.
Her enthusiasm for primary teaching and the Union burns as bright today as it did when she was a young teacher first out of university.
“It’s more than just a job for me, you don’t walk out the door and stop thinking about the children. I just love them, they’re delightful and funny and every day is different.
“Teaching is a life affirming profession, celebrating the achievements and sharing the challenges with the children, their parents and my colleagues.”
While children remain the same, Bernadette has seen big changes in classroom technology.
“I started with a chalkboard, ending the day covered in chalk, there was no wearing your best clothes.
“The greatest innovation of the day was the appearance of the overhead projector, which introduced an Aladdin’s cave of experiences and activities to the classroom.
“Young teachers must think I am making it up when I tell them every worksheet or note to parents had to be written by hand and the pictures drawn or traced on to an A4 sheet with carbon paper and then run through a spirit based Gestetner machine.
“As reports were all handwritten you were conscious of making any mistakes, as you would then need to write the whole report again.”
Bernadette said her principal appreciates her experience and seeks her opinion, as well as encouraging her to mentor young teachers. “While I feel valued I am happy to continue at work.
“Support for beginning teachers is better now than when I started my career, and that’s something the Union has lobbied for.
“I have always believed in the need for unions – the best is achieved with a collective voice. I have seen this in action in my 40 years, with the Union negotiating and championing for members to achieve pay increases and improvements in entitlements and working conditions.
“I have a very short message. Every teacher needs to be a member of the Union.”