Montessori principal farewells classroom after 60 years

AFTER a remarkable 60 years of teaching it will take some time for Kevin McCulloch, co-principal of Bega’s Thomas More Christian Montessori School, to get used to the idea of retirement.

Dr McCulloch’s passion for educating youth and involvement in running the local Montessori school, along with wife Donna for the last 16 years, has meant he has lived and breathed his career for more than half a century.

A fitting celebration of Dr McCulloch’s contribution to the education of many hundreds of pupils was held at Montessori school recently.

Among those who attended the function was Barry Jamieson of Lower Bendoc who was the first pupil taught by Dr McCulloch.

Mr Jamieson was 11 years old and in Year 5.

“I remember Barry used to fill the inkwells for me, he would light the school room fire in the morning in the winter and would also kill the occasional snake.

“He was a country boy with all the bush crafts, and I was a city slicker!”

Dr McCulloch started teaching at Lower Bendoc Public School in 1954, fresh from completing his training at Toorak Teachers’ College in Melbourne.

Dr McCulloch recalled it as being quite a shock to the system upon arriving at the tiny town of Lower Bendoc in Victoria.

He was not expecting such a small community and school and on first entering the town had been surprised to learn from the driver of the bus he was travelling on that they had already driven passed the school. There were no sprawling school grounds containing many buildings in Lower Bendoc!

Even though he has retired from classroom teaching, Dr McCulloch is still not ready to completely cut all ties to the school in to which he and Ms McCulloch have poured so much of their time, energy and love.

He plans to remain involved in the school, as he strongly believes in the skills and benefits a Montessori education offers children, their parents and the wider community.

Dr McCulloch is proud of what the school has achieved and become and is particularly proud of its students.

“What is especially important is the continuation of this lovely school,” he said.

“For the past 16 years it has grown in many ways.

“We have a growing staff and school programs and now we can enjoy these new and wonderful school facilities.

“Most of all, the school ensures there is something more to offer the community and parents when it comes to their child’s education.”

Thomas More Christian Montessori School teaches from pre-Kindergarten through to Year 6 using the Montessori method within an environment that develops each child’s personality and fosters a child’s learning at their own pace.

Montessori school board member Mary Plevey spoke on behalf of the board and the Montessori parents who chose the school for their child.

She thanked Dr McCulloch for following his dream of establishing a Montessori school in Bega, when he could so easily have just put his feet up and enjoyed a well-earned retirement from the Victorian Department of Education.

“We thank you for the enormous time and energy you have given to our children, for your vision, your dedication, your determination and your loving service and we especially thank you for sharing your love of music and teaching so  many children how to play an instrument.

“We are also grateful for the hours you have spent teaching and playing sport.

“You have tutored each one of your students in becoming a valuable citizen in the larger community as they have learned to be a valued, responsible member in the classroom and school community.

“You have also made it possible for several hundred pre-schoolers to get a solid foundation for their later learning.

“We shall support the continuation of the worthy work you have begun.”

Dr McCulloch was then presented with a basket containing donations to assist with the purchase of a “tinny” or fishing gear, now that he finally has some time on his hands.

“We hope that you will have many hours of peaceful enjoyment fishing, knowing you have completed a successful, outstanding teaching career,” Mrs Plevey said.

“We don’t know of too many 80-year-olds who have still taught in a primary classroom, let alone run a school!”

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