Honoured: “Public education is the cornerstone of Australian democracy,” Chris Presland said.A LOT of teachers can credit an inspirational educator from their own school days for their career path, but for St Clair High School’s principal Chris Presland the opposite is true.
“I was sitting in an English class with a teacher that I thought was doing an interminably boring job,” he said of his senior schooling at Sylvania High School.
“I remember thinking: ‘this job is so important and you’re doing a lousy job of it’, I want to do a better job. From that moment I decided I wanted to be a teacher.”
That decision resulted in the 55-year-old being awarded the Public Service Medal in Monday’s Australia Day honours for his “outstanding public service to education” in a 34-year career.
The principal of St Clair High School for the past seven years, one of Mr Presland’s biggest challenges was getting students back to school following a devastating fire that destroyed most of it on June 29 last year.
Just two weeks after the school holiday fire, the students returned to 20 demountable classrooms.
“A major source of anxiety straight away was that the kids would need to be housed at another school,” Mr Presland said.
“But I said straight away that the kids would be back on site, at our school, on day one.”
Mr Presland said he was shocked to receive the Australia Day honour but was happy to accept it on behalf of all public education workers.
“While it’s recognition for me, by the same token it’s recognition that is built on the work of a hell of a lot of people giving their heart and soul to the job,” he said.
While the fire crisis captured national headlines, Mr Presland said it was the everyday rewards that don’t make the news that sustain most teachers in the profession.
“To put it in perspective, we have roughly 1000 human beings at our school — teachers and students.
“As a principal you’re at the centre of that and that’s really humbling.”
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