Seaford to Shepparton: igniting a spark for almost 50 years

CREATING CURIOUSITY… Teacher, Clare Canty has always encouraged students to be curious about learning, whatever their interests. She is pictured above writing with Mooropna Park P.S. student, Violet. Photo: Supplied.

CLARE Canty has retired from teaching after 47 years. She taught her last day in the classroom at Mooroopna Park Primary School in December, before taking long service.

For Mrs Canty, becoming a teacher was her chance to break out of the family home and to emerge into the world. Having grown up in Seaford, Clare completed her initial training at Frankston State College and would go on to apply for teaching positions anywhere between “Cohuna and Mildura, somewhere along the Murray.” She and a friend who Clare studied with both had strict fathers and had spent some time in Swan Hill, convincing the girls that exciting new lives called for them in regional Victoria.

Most of Mrs Canty’s teaching career was her 21 years of teaching at Gowrie Street Primary School.

“I was young and still single then, many of us working there were, and we formed a close community of friends around one another,” she recalled. “I always expected I’d stay and finally retire from teaching at Gowrie Street, but that changed when I was offered a year at Maguire College as a literacy coach.”

“I’ve always tried to teach in a hands-on way,” she said, “And I’ve always enjoyed being in the classroom, so for me I never envisioned myself taking on an admin role or becoming principal.”

The opportunity to coach fellow teachers in literacy and complete career development in the maths and science gave Clare a taste for making a difference without leaving her teaching role.

Some special moments for Mrs Canty have been organising a camp at Queenscliff for Ardmona P.S. students and taking on the passion project to restore Ardmona’s WWI memorial. This led to the discovery of missing names on the memorial, which have since been added thanks to Clare, in a move celebrated overseas in England.

While teaching at Maguire College, Clare recalls when a student experiencing casual racism from his mates. She organised for students to have a personal video call with the Sydney Swan’s Adam Goodes, who took a stand against racism in AFL in 2013. Their conversations with him proved moving, and Clare recalls a female student of Afghan descent, writing to Mr Goodes that she feels stronger today than yesterday.

“Teaching primary school kids is really about trying to ignite a spark, getting them interested in whatever it is, whether that’s sport, maths, gardening, anything, and then arousing their curiosity.”

“The schools I’ve taught at have taught me so much. I’ve worked with a wide range of students, families and cultures. It has been such a good experience to work with diverse backgrounds.”

“I’m not sick of teaching, I could teach forever,” she said, “But I am looking forward to a new chapter. I’m hoping to do lots of travel, trying new creative projects and doing my bit for the environment. I have a granddaughter who I will look after one day a week, and I will love spending time with her.”