Wendy’s passion for teamwork

WARRACKNABEAL resident and retired secondary teacher Wendy Hewitt shared some of her motivations for getting involved in the community and becoming a teacher.
Inspired by Warracknabeal’s Elizabeth Denham, a teacher at Warracknabeal’s secondary school, Mrs Hewitt remarked on the impression that she left during her schooling years.
“She was very fair, very passionate about what she was teaching.”
Being both fair and passionate about her students, teaching physical education, maths, and French, Mrs Denham’s teaching prowess left an impression on Mrs Hewitt, who was sad to hear of her recent passing.
“She was enthusiastic about what she did and always she encouraged students,” she said.
“She was my motivation to become a teacher. She was everything you’d want in a teacher.”
After graduating and having greater access to a tertiary education under the education reforms introduced by the Whitlam Government in the 1970s, Mrs Hewitt decided on pursuing her dream career by enrolling in Melbourne’s Burwood Teachers College.
“In a country town in the 1960s-70s, the career choice for girls was pretty narrow, largely secretarial, hairdressing, nursing and teaching, plus working in retail were the usual options. Leaving the local area wasn’t on the radar for most,” she said.
“In the 70s, the Federal Government education reforms enabled free tertiary education, so universities and teacher’s colleges were suddenly real choices for many rural children.”
Many families were introduced to new professional opportunities during that time and Mrs Hewitt joined a  generation of Australians on a challenging but bright venture.
“Many of my classmates went to university, and I was so excited to go to Melbourne for teacher’s college. My dream came true.
“It was pretty exciting going to Melbourne, not knowing anyone and getting on with it.
“Tertiary education cost money and that meant going away from home and paying for accommodation and food, and you may not have had a part-time job.
“Your whole life changes as well as there being a burden on your family.”
After graduating from teaching college, Mrs Hewitt taught on the outskirts of Melbourne as its physical education teacher for several years.
“Working on the outskirts of Melbourne was a little bit different working in a multicultural background, which I hadn’t experienced before,” she said.
“It was a fairly new school and a lot of young teachers were sent there because it had a connotation about not being a very nice area.”
“I remember saying to kids to not be embarrassed about it and that it should be something to be proud of.”
Returning to Warracknabeal in the late 1980s, Mrs Hewitt worked as the physical education and health teacher at Warracknabeal Secondary College.
Recognising the importance of connections within the community, something which was not as prevalent in Melbourne, Mrs Hewitt made a point of making those connections.
“My family have always been involved in local community activities, so I guess I’ve grown up with this as the normal thing to do,” she said.
“When I lived in Melbourne, I wasn’t involved in a community. It’s quite a self centred way of life, and only really realised this when I returned to my home town years later.
“I’ve loved being back in a community. I love the sense of belonging. Being involved in community groups and sports clubs has given me more than I’ve ever put in.
“But I’m no different to many in our community. So many contribute to our community much more than me. They are inspirational.”
The importance of teamwork translated across many activities, most notably in Mrs Hewitt’s passion for sport.
“I’ve loved playing sport all my life.  It has given me so much,” she said.
“It helps to keep me physically healthy. I’ve met so many people through sport and enjoyed the social life that goes with it.
“I enjoy the physical and mental challenges.  It’s such a good stress reliever. And it’s fun so it’s easy to be motivated to keep it up.
“I just love being in a town where I can see the kids that I taught for years growing up and having their own kids and being able to play sports with them.”
Initially retiring in 2015, Mrs Hewitt returned to work for three years as a coordinator for the Warracknabeal Linking Learning literacy project, which assisted kids in the district develop their reading and writing skills.
Retiring again in 2019,  Mrs Hewitt enjoys spending her time in town catching up with friends, whether that be during sports or not, and helping out at the Community Garden on Saturday  mornings.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Mrs Hewitt has been keeping active, riding her bike around town and has set up a mini-golf course in the back paddock.
Making up for the years of “half-hearted” attempts to learn gardening, Mrs Hewitt has also been putting into practice the advice she has picked up from the experts at the Community Garden, working on her veggie garden, and getting creative in the kitchen.

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