Celebrating the many teachers in our lives

A number of my teachers were educators by profession. Friday 30 October is World Teachers’ Day and an opportunity to give thanks for the inspiration and the dedication of so many teachers in our lives and the lives of our children. I remember I liked virtually all of my teachers at Daramalan College in Canberra and to single out one would seem disloyal to the others. So many taught me lessons well beyond the confines of the syllabus. 

While teaching mathematics may be my craft, it was my American literature teacher, Mr Ellis, who first encouraged me to think. He never taught us what to think; I am not sure he even really taught us how to think. He simply taught us that the only way to learn is to think. His classes brimmed with enthusiasm, affection (for both the text and the classroom) and a dynamic, open-minded intelligence. What I recall most fondly about Mr Ellis’ approach to teaching was that it genuinely created an environment that was intellectually demanding, without insisting on a particular answer to any given question. This allowed many perspectives to thrive, though never to go unchallenged. He always had a tone of bewilderment when any of his students displayed ignorance. This was not a shaming tactic; it was a genuine, plain, surprise that more facts had not been absorbed by such young minds. It was clear that, to Mr Ellis, knowledge was an endless source of wonderment, and its absence was in no way a cause for embarrassment, just motivation to correct the vacuum. It was his genius as a teacher that created the right atmosphere that in turn opened our minds and filled us with an enthusiastic sense of possibility. You will not find that on a syllabus anywhere; it is not tested in any exam, but it is a mark of a great teacher. 

Education is one of the greatest advantages in life. Most of us have fond memories of that special teacher who made their mark, who inspired us to greater things, who believed in us, who shaped and guided us. Education has the power to transform lives and communities and I feel immensely proud to be part of this great profession. On World Teachers’ Day, we thank those special men and women at Marist College Canberra who give so generously to the education of young minds to exercise their intellect and their curiosity so that they can make critical judgements about the world and have the courage to make a difference. 


One of the greatest privileges of being a teacher is to share in the discovery and excitement of each generation coming towards maturity. We all learn from the children in our care. As adults we never have all the answers. None of us is perfect. Often we struggle to find the right word or response to the unique child before us. As Sir Percy Nunn said in 1919, “Teachers are ambassadors of society to the kingdom of the child”.  Bill Firman