North Star hosted a celebration for Marian Thatcher recently to recognise more than four decades of service to education at the local school.
Marian moved to Australia with her family at three-years-old in 1950 from Holland. Her parents met during WWII and they wanted a better and safer life for their girls. It took six days by plane, leaving everything and everyone behind. They went to Bathurst migrant camp and then to Canberra where Marian's parents worked at a poultry farm, and her father also as a gardener at the Govenor General's residence.
They later moved to a "very basic" home on a farm on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. "Dad was always very keen for us to have a good education and I did correspondence lessons every day with Mum as my first teacher," Marian said.
After a flood the family moved to Narrandera where they worked at the milk depot with runs done using a horse and cart. Marian started first class at the local school. "I had never seen so many kids before. I just loved school from the very beginning.
"In those days the classes were big - 50 students. Reports were very short; about half an A4 sheet with six marks, place in class and a one-sentence comment. How things have changed!"
After completing fifth year at Narrandera High, Marian received a scholarship; the only way to afford college in those days.
"I just always wanted to be a teacher and my sister was the same. We played schools a lot as kids," Marian said.
In 1965 Marian went to Wagga Wagga Teachers' College which had about 400 students. Her sister joined her two years later. "Dad was so proud to have two teachers in the family."
While at college, Marian met a young lad, Warren, from North Star who was doing national service at Kapooka Army Base.
After two years training Marian received her first appointment letter, to Holbrook, in the mail about a week before school started. "I always wanted to be an infants teacher and was lucky enough to be given the Kindergarten class of over 40 children."
Marian and Warren married in 1968 and moved to "Boonery Park". It was impossible to get from the farm to North Star on the black soil road during wet weather so Marian took time off from teaching.
The Thatchers had lived at North Star since the early 50s, running a transport company. Warren and his brother Jeff both attended school in the first building - now the staff room - a one-teacher school with about 40 children.
The teacher boarded with local families including the Thatchers. Stella Thatcher and Molly Makim worked hard to raise funds to build the first teacher's house across the road from the school.
Shana was born in 1970. The same year a new teacher would join the family with Julia coming to teach at the school and meeting Jeff.
Marian returned to teaching casually at Toomelah and was offered a classroom teacher position for 4th/5th class at North Star in 1975.
There were five teachers, five classes, four school buses and possibly as many as 130 students. Access to the school was difficult in wet weather when many roads were impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles were rare. Often, it was just the principal and a handful of children who could get to school on very wet days.
"Marian solved the wet weather problem by investing in a mid-1970s model Toyota Landcruiser," Julia said. "This enabled her to skid, slip, slide and rev along eight kilometres of black soil road to join the relative ‘haven’ of the unsealed North Star - Croppa Creek Road, where she faced a further 15 kilometres of slush and rocks," she said.
"Poor Shana used to sit in there with her eyes closed," Marian said. "I remember once a huge spider came from under the dashboard as we crossed the Tackinbri Creek and we all bailed out. It was a bit of fun."
Marian worked with seven principals. "North Star was a school where principals went for their 'lists'. Every few years the school was visited by two inspectors for a few days while the principal and school staff were inspected. We worked very hard to make sure everything was right so the principal could get his list and be promoted to a bigger school."
From 1976 Marian always taught Kindergarten in combination with Years 1, 2 and 3. "The wonderful thing about teaching the younger classes is that they are so keen to learn and so open and honest. To be there when they start to get the idea of reading and then seeing the progress they make over the years is very rewarding."
"Marian’s classroom was always a special, magical place where young minds could learn and grow," Julia said. "Marian always had a special rapport with the younger children, a special understanding of their needs, a special talent for teaching and engaging them."
At the end of 2000 Marian became principal and served in that position until March, 2018.
There have been quite a few changes in education over the years including blackboards being replaced by whiteboards and then smartboards, computers and the internet. "In reading there has been the whole language versus phonics debate. We have always taught phonics at North Star. It is the key to reading and spelling.
"I am proud of the success our students have had in international competitions and assessments. I'm proud that we have given students opportunities to participate in a great variety of learning, cultural and sporting experiences. Our school has always done well at sport.
"I have been very proud of our former students who have done so well with their education and careers. Probably most rewarding of all is that they are parents of our precious new students."
Julia said there were many more things she could say about Marian. "How can one possibly encapsulate a career of four decades? I could elaborate on the high standard of Marian’s professional documents, her classroom teaching programs and student reports; I could mention end-of-year Nativity plays, teddy bears’ picnics and early swimming lessons at Wolonga pool.
"Thank you, Marian, for all the countless hours you have spent teaching our children so well, and for leading the school so wisely. Thank you for the quality education you have delivered. No-one has worked harder. No-one has cared more. Your contribution to our community has been immense. I know everyone applauds your courage, your professionalism and your years of dedication to North Star School," Julia said.
Marian said it was an honour to be a teacher and principal over the last 43 years. "Teaching at North Star has been my life and I am very grateful. There have been so many wonderful children, families and staff over the years.
"Listening to the radio the other day we heard the song, We Done Us Proud sung by Slim Dusty. One line of the song is: 'We taught the children as if they were our own'. This is so true."