Gillwinga farewells much-loved teacher
WHEN Maree Davis first walked into Gillwinga Public School as a casual teacher, little did she know it would be the start of a 26-year relationship with this close-knit community.
"I didn't know anyone who taught there but from the moment I arrived, I was made to feel so welcome," she said.
"Since then I've met so many lovely people and worked with them over the years; shared lots of memories, joy and even the tough times.
"Now, I see former students come back as teachers themselves and it's just lovely."
Originally from Cessnock, Ms Davis said her father's line of work eventually led the family to the Clarence Valley.
"I finished my schooling in Grafton before going to Sydney to become a nurse. But I soon joined teaching and ended up back here in 1991 with my former husband whom I met at school in Grafton," she said.
In 1994, Ms Davis started working as a casual teacher at Gillwinga Public School and four years later, was offered a permanent position.
In that time, she wore several hats. From classroom teacher, relief teacher, support teacher (learning difficulties) to librarian.
On Wednesday, Ms Davis officially retired from teaching. However, hopes of a quiet send-off were out of the question.
Two former teachers Debbie Brookes and Shauna Baker made a surprise visit to send their colleague off during a special morning tea.
"I worked with both of them for over 15 years," she said.
"They already retired, but when they heard about this, there was no keeping them away!"
Staff presented Ms Davis with a painting of Gouldian finches by local artist Margaret Hodgson.
"I have a big passion for bird watching and was lucky to see these birds in the wild in Darwin last year, so it was a beautiful gift," she said.
Although retirement implies plenty of down time, Ms Davis said that wouldn't be the case.
"It's a little bit exciting, a little bit scary saying goodbye to working full time but I have full grandmother duties to attend to," she said.
"I have three beautiful sons I plan to visit, two beautiful grandchildren and another on the way!"