Final bell for Tech School stalwart’s career
Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.
SUE Canty has mustered the courage to use the word ‘retirement,’ bringing an inspiring 45-year teaching career to an end.
The Melbourne-born Ararat College English and Psychology teacher said she is the last Ararat Technical School educator to call it quits.
“I'm the last one, I'm the last teacher from the Tech School - I've got a big T tattooed on my forehead,” she said.
Mrs Canty was sent to Ararat at the end of her technical teaching training at Hawthorn College in 1980 and within weeks she had fallen in love with the town, the school and her future husband, David.
As past students have attested to in a compilation of video messages, Mrs Canty brought a no BS approach to the classroom with a witty sense of humour that has been impossible to forget.
She first trained as a journalist out of secondary school but was deterred by the immediacy of the industry, so diverted her eyes to education, due to favourable studentship opportunities.
“In the year that I was training to be a teacher, I didn't go so well because I was trying really hard to be a 'teacher’,” she said.
“I thought, no, I can't do this - I've got to be me. The minute I became me, it was great. I loved it.”
Mrs Canty’s passion for her students has been the driving force behind her career.
She has understood the need to get to know students on a personal level and is particularly proud of her years at the Tech School.
“We've had at least two doctors come out of the Tech, we've had geologists, we've had engineers and from [Ararat College] I have taught a doctor of psychology. It's just been amazing,” she said.
“I've also taught or known brilliant people that work at the prison, or anybody who works at Safeway, or in the chemist, at AME. To me, everyone's equal.”
Mrs Canty said the Ararat Technical School was “a really good alternative” to education that succeeded for many years before it amalgamated with Ararat High School to become Ararat Secondary College in 1991.
“We were an amazing school that had amazing staff who really knew their stuff. The technology teachers were specialised in their area and kids just went on to do amazing things because of what they were taught,” she said.
Ararat College principal, Ellie McDougall, said there are hundreds of students who hold fond memories of Mrs Canty as a teacher throughout the school’s history.
“She is highly regarded, passionate and engaging to every student who walks into her classroom and all staff that join our school,” she said.
Past-student, Martina Gemmola, used her video message to reflect on the balance Mrs Canty struck between kindness and strength in her teaching.
“You really wrapped us up in a hug and got us across the line, especially in year 12. I thank you for that, it's something I'll never forget,” she said.
“You and Sue Lay were big role models to us as young women. We found that your drive and your strength was really something that we looked up to.”
Mrs Canty’s fondest moments include the less formal occasions that allowed staff and students to let down their hair.
She admits that the kind of fun had by school communities in her early days has diminished in a world of political correctness and more structured education.
“At the Tech, we had walkathons and we'd walk from Dobie all dressed up. I went as Cyndi Lauper once and nearly died with all the jewellery. We just used to have the best sort of fun,” she said.
More recently, Mrs Canty has encountered full circle moments that only some teachers get to experience, teaching children of past students.
She recounted an interaction with a student she disciplined using his father’s name, blaming the error on a likeness in behaviour with a smirk.
“I kind of like it because I feel like I've got even more connection. I'll often say, your dad was one of my favourite students when really, no he wasn't,” she said.
Past-student and teacher himself, Nick Lloyd, said he remembers the three simple rules Mrs Canty asked her students to follow.
“Don’t annoy me, don’t annoy me, don’t annoy me,” he said.
Mrs Canty said they clearly worked, a reason perhaps for her longevity.
“I don't really want to go, except I'm old. I am old and I do want to travel, and I've got grandchildren,” she said.
The final straw was the added pressure of remote learning and the reliance on technology.
“You can teach an old dog new tricks, but the new tricks just kept coming and coming and I thought, I can't do this anymore. Technology wise, I felt like I was starting to just get pretty overwhelmed,” she said
Mrs Canty has been on leave this year which will continue in the New Year, but with her teaching days behind her, a retirement life of traveling, reading, completing crosswords, gardening and time with her grandchildren awaits.
“Now I am ready. I certainly haven't been all year, that's why I have said I'm not retiring, I'm just not working. Now, I can probably start to use that word,” she said.