During 34 years at Ulladulla High School, Barry Christiansen has witnessed several generations of the same family come through the school. The well-known teacher has now retired from the school, where he started at as a science teacher in 1984.
“The school had about 600 and something kids back then,” Mr Christiansen said.
“I spent a number of years out west in Cobar and always had this vision of coming back to the coast because I grew up in Wollongong.
“I told the staff recently that it was like winning lotto when I got placed in Ulladulla. I really fell on my feet. It was a great move.”
Mr Christiansen was in Europe when he got news of his first posting, which was to be in Tooleybuc Central.
“I didn’t know where that was, so I went to Australia House and they brought out the magnifying glass and found Tooleybuc, but by the time I got home, they rescinded that notice and sent me to Cobar,” he explained.
Since moving to Ulladulla, Mr Christiansen has taken on roles as head teacher, deputy principal and relieving principal, but none were as rewarding as being a year adviser, he said.
“There are very few roles that I haven’t done,” he said.
“I have encouraged junior staff to take on other roles to find things that interest them and things they are good at, which is the same sort of message we send to our kids.
“There has been a lot of highlights in my career, but I would say year adviser is up there. To me, that is really what the job is about; Working with people and helping people. You are at the forefront of that as year adviser. It is a stressful job, but a very rewarding job.
“The best job around the place is year adviser.”
Seeing students go on to achieve great things was also a highlight of his career, Mr Christiansen said.
“What other jobs can you get where you can help people and watch them go on and do so well. Often young people come to me and they will tell me two things. They will always tell me what they are up to, and then they say, ‘at school, I was a real bugger’. Without fail,” he said.
While there had been changes in the delivery of lessons, Mr Christiansen said the core values of teaching had not changed.
“It is a people industry and it is about teachers working with students and helping students. Whatever you have to help you along the way, it is always about being keen to find what interests and engages students to keep them motivated,” he said.
The demographic of teachers at the school had also changed he said, noting it was a male-dominated staff room when he started. “Now it is quite the opposite, you look at the profile of our teaching staff and there is more middle-aged females. There is a lot of younger enthusiastic staff as well.”