By Casey Neill
John Hurley started his teaching career 55 years ago at a small school in the Strzelecki Ranges.
He was 19 years old. There was no electricity, no phones and 28 students.
“It was fantastic. I loved it,” he said.
The Thomas Mitchell Primary School principal relied on a scholarship to finish his own schooling.
“My parents were not at all wealthy,” he said.
“I think it was 50 pounds at the time.”
Mr Hurley was “very, very proud” that Narre Warren North MP Luke Donnellan recognised his subsequent service to education with a presentation at the Endeavour Hills school on Friday 11 August.
“It was a surprise – Luke coming out and having an assembly and all that sort of thing,” he said.
“He wasn’t asked to do it or anything like that. He organised to come along and he presented me with a lovely plaque and also a personal book on my favourite football team, Collingwood Football Club.
“The kids were spectacularly fantastic.
“The whole 800 of them were there, as quiet as can be when I went into the assembly area.
“After school, the staff got together and I had no idea about it, and put on a lovely party for me at school after school.”
Mr Hurley is in his 26th year at Thomas Mitchell, having come on board as founding principal in 1991 after heading up Cranbourne Primary School.
“For me the ultimate satisfaction for a job would be to start your own school, so I decided that was what I wanted to do,” he said.
“There were three schools opening at the one time.
“There was Coral Park, Thomas Mitchell and the other was Maramba.
“I did some research and the information I came up with was that this would be the most interesting school to start – most interesting because of the multicultural community.”
This multiculturalism has kept him at the school.
“They’re just wonderful families and kids because they get on so well together,” he said.
“There’s more than 70 nationalities.
“It’s just lovely to see them getting on so well and learning from each other and teaching me lots of things
“There’s so much that I don’t know – and I’ve travelled a fair bit – they can tell me so much.
“I’ve met wonderful people on the way.
“I’m still in touch with kids I taught 50 years ago.”