From school teacher to organiser to Secretary of the IEU, Mark Northam has been a member of the union for almost 40 years. He’s retiring to spend more time with his grandchildren. IEU journalist Lucy Meyer spoke to Mark about his memories and lessons from a long and varied career.
LM: What is your fondest memory of working with students?
MN: Probably students who were less well-off, who may have struggled, and then become engaged in education. And you might see them years later in another setting. They might extend their thanks or best wishes. So that’s gratifying, where you see students who have struggled, but clambered through and been successful against the odds.
LM: Do you remember a particularly challenging moment from when you were teaching? Are there any that come to mind that you can share?
MN: Well, there was certainly a group of students. It was a transitional education program, so getting students to leave school equipped with life skills. All good kids. We mapped out where the main water pipe into the school was, but a crowbar went through the main water pipe. The principal at the time became deeply aggrieved that the school had no water. Even though they carefully measured it, the crowbar came in contact with the pipe.
LM: So, it was an accident?
MN: Presumably… (Mark starts to smile).
LM: Presumably. How did you deal with that?
MN: Probably with a lack of skill, because I was in my third or fourth year of teaching. It was an interesting few minutes until the plumber arrived.
LM: So after over two decades of teaching, what made you decide to come work for the IEU?