Loved Principal farewelled by students

After 37 years in Catholic education, Jennifer Payne is retiring to take much-needed time out to care for her parents.

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This term was the last for Mrs Payne, who said it had been a privilege to spend eight of those years as Principal of Mater Dei Catholic Primary, Blakehurst.

She is the second longest-serving principal at the school, and has developed a thriving community who are going to miss her.

Before primary teaching, Mrs Payne remembers teaching geography and commerce to eleven 16-year-old boys at St John’s College Lakemba.

“I’ll never forget how anxious I was on my first day,” she said.

“Teaching boys was a challenge, having been raised in a home with two sisters and attending an all girls’ school.

“I was also the youngest teacher – most of the other staff were my parents age!”

Mrs Payne’s own experience of high school at St Ursula’s inspired her to become a teacher and return to teach at her former school in 1979.

“The Ursuline motto – Serviam (I will serve) – has always stayed with me since school. I developed a love of learning and a desire to inspire in children a love of learning,” she said.

Since then, Mrs Payne has thrived in roles as a Religious Education Adviser, Curriculum Adviser, Assistant Principal and Principal, providing the best educational opportunities for all students.

Being Principal at Mater Dei, however, has been the most satisfying time in her professional life.

“It has certainly been the busiest time and also a source of great joy. I will miss the most the deep level of engagement with families, helping them and watching their children grow and develop.

“From time to time children wrote me beautiful messages, sometimes just on scraps of paper or on carefully constructed cards. This appreciation and gratitude is priceless.”

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