WA’s oldest public school teacher reflects on lifelong passion sparked from Albany childhood

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Ocean Reef Senior High School home economics teacher Melvina Smith.
Camera IconOcean Reef Senior High School home economics teacher Melvina Smith. Credit: Supplied

WA’s oldest public school teacher has spoken about what inspired her to pursue a career in education on the eve of World Teachers’ Day.

Melvina Smith, 82, has been teaching around the State for the past 40 years and now works as a home economics teacher at Ocean Reef Senior High School.

But her passion for teaching stretches back as far as she can remember.

Ms Smith was born in Albany in 1939, quickly assuming a leadership role among her siblings.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher from a very young age,” she said.

“As the oldest of six children, with my youngest sibling being 15 years younger than me, it gave me excellent practice helping the family and learning about children of which I loved looking after them.

“My mother was a tailoress so I learnt to sew at an early age and at six years of age I made my first dress with my mother’s help.”

Ms Smith’s parents were unable to send her to teacher training school in Perth, but she eventually made the move from Albany to the big smoke in 1973.

At 38, she had the opportunity as a mature age student to study a diploma in teaching with a major in home economics.

Ms Smith started her teaching career during 1981 in Broome where she met students from a range of cultures and immersed herself in the Kimberley lifestyle.

She went on to graduate from university in 1993 with a Bachelor of Education which she completed while working full-time.

With an interest in sewing, some skills in the kitchen and experience as a swimming instructor, she said home economics seemed a great fit.

“These hobbies that I loved became transferable skills for me to use during my teaching career,” she said.

“This made it enjoyable and made it easy for me to give students skills that I have loved all my life.”

World Teachers’ Day celebrates the dedication of teachers and the significant role they play in the lives of students, their families and communities.

Ms Smith has made a significant contribution over her decades in the sector, driven by a love for the job.

One career highlight she singled out was her involvement as a foundation staff member at Ocean Reef SHS, where she was one of 14 people instrumental in setting up the school in 1983.

“Teaching is very rewarding ... it makes a difference to so many children and the world is a better place with education,” she said.

“Teaching allows you to transfer to so many parts of the world and I have learnt so much about other cultures.”

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