By Shelby Brooks
For 38 years, Pakenham’s Judy Bishop has had a hand in shaping the next generation of students at St John’s Regional College in Dandenong. But now it’s time for her to close the book for the last time, as she retires at the end of this year.
Judy Bishop began teaching at St John’s Regional College in 1984 after working in primary education for five years.
She was interested in how the grade six students transitioned to high school so decided she wanted to make the move herself into secondary teaching.
When Judy started at the St John’s, it was one campus with different areas for junior middle and senior school.
“We had well over 1200 kids there and a massive staff,” Judy said.
“The staff all had the same common area, everyone got to know everyone it was really great.
“We had a lot of fun.”
Judy knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was in grade three.
“I lived at Garfield and went to St Joseph’s in Iona. In grade two we had a terrible encounter with a nun, all of us were so frightened of her,” Judy said.
“We’d cop the feather duster over the hand if we did the wrong thing.
“But the following year we got a lay-teacher and she was just a breath of fresh air, she changed our lives forever.”
Marie Wright, the teacher who Judy wanted to emulate, is someone she still sees today.
In the early years of Judy’s time at St John’s, the junior staff had a lot of fun, even playing pranks on each other.
“It was almost like those junior school teachers have too much fun,” she said.
“We had fun with our teaching, the kids loved it. If the staff was happy, the kids were happy.”
Highlights of the early days were the big swimming and athletic carnivals as well as the performing arts side of musicals and the Founders Day talent quest.
She spent one summer holiday teaching herself year 10 maths after a principal decided to give her the challenge of a higher year level and unfamiliar subject.
“The principal kept throwing curve balls back at me and I kept socking them back, in the end we came very good friends,” she said.
“He had respect for me and I had respect for him.
“I wouldn’t have gone onto be a year level or house coordinator. If he hadn’t challenged me, I would have just been another teacher.”
In 2008, St John’s introduced a vertical home room system, which saw Judy become Delphius’ house leader.
“Our symbol was the dolphin but we never won a swimming carnival!” Judy said.
“But we could run and eventually the cycle come around the other way and we won a few swimming championships, but we were not so much with the athletics.
“At one point we won the house champion six years in a row.
“We were a little bit like the Collingwood of the competition, everyone wanted to beat us.”
In the classroom, Judy said her teaching philosophy was about expectations.
“I set expectations, kids knew what I expected and kids need boundaries, they knew the boundaries and my expectations,” she said.
“You don’t always have to be strict but if you set a certain standard the kids know that.
“I keep standards high for the kids and myself. The kids feed off your mood.”
One of the trickier times in her career was in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“We started off with forums, where you could only type to the kids,” Judy said.
“There was no talking. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done.”
Thankfully the system was changed to video and talking capabilities.
“Imagine what it’s like to type a maths question via typing it. It was awful,” Judy said.
Judy could see the defeat in the faces of many year 12s of 2020.
“I really fear for the year 12s last year, they never got to have a graduation ceremony, formal dinner, all the things they’ve watched other year 12s over the years, they never got to do that,” Judy said
“I really wonder how those young people are coping now. There was no closure for them. It was sad.
“I hope this year by term four, year 12s this year will have closure.”