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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

45 years of teaching: ‘a difficult job and getting harder’

For almost half a century, Stephen Ford has been teaching students across the ACT, and despite two attempts at retirement, is still working in the classroom, this time at Erindale College.

For Stephen, who has been a teacher for 45 years, his career was “inspired by a couple of my teachers when I was in school” and he has since proven to be an inspiration for others.

This includes Helen Souflias-Mantinaos, a science teacher at Erindale College who was also a student of Stephen’s at Wanniassa High in 1982.

“Stephen taught me in 1982 which was the second year the school opened. As a science teacher, I think he left a lasting impression on the world of science and I think my interest from there grew,” Helen recalled.

“When I knew I was going to become a teacher, which was probably by the end of high school … he was just always a role model of what a good teacher should be.”

While many parents have gained a newfound respect for the work of teachers thanks to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen said the profession is not attracting the teachers it used to.

According to Stephen, teaching is “a difficult job and getting harder” because they are no longer just teachers but counsellors, social workers and career advisors. However, teaching has its rewards.

“It’s a hard job but the reason I am in it is for the kids,” he said.

“I enjoy the challenges. I love trying to get the kids to try and do their best.

“A lot come through life thinking they can’t do it or are doing the subject because Mum told them they had to and when they realise that they actually have the ability, they actually really enjoy what they do.”

He said good teachers not only need to know their subject well but be empathetic to students, and that it is important to attract more people back to the profession. One method Stephen suggests is to bring back scholarships, which is what initially helped him on his career path.

“I won a scholarship to do teaching … so I took it and part of that scholarship was guaranteed work in the Northern Territory,” he said.

Since his time in the Northern Territory, Stephen has spent most of his career in the ACT teaching at Weston Creek High, Wanniassa High, Calwell High, Hawker College, University of Canberra, CIT, and Lake Ginninderra College, from where he retired for the first time in 2008.

“I was retired a few days and the phone rang for a job at Canberra Boys Grammar and then on to Canberra College where they needed a chemistry teacher,” he said.

Stephen retired from Canberra College, where he spent 10 years, in June last year but recently answered the call to come and help teach short-term at Erindale College.

Comment on this story

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