Past students shape school’s present

Back for the future: St John Vianney teachers Sara Torresan, Rebecca El Atrache, Kay Deligiannis, Simon Torresan, and Danielle Gambacourta. Photo: Kitty Beale

St John Vianney Catholic Primary Greenacre is thriving on a culture of welcome, and on the skills and memories of a handful of those welcomed back.

Five of the school’s current teaching staff are past students, including two teachers each in their first and second year of the career.

Sara Torresan joined her younger brother Simon, now in his second year of teaching Music at St John Vianney, at the school in 2017. Between their younger siblings graduating Year 6 and their teaching commitments, Sara and Simon are continuing a 26 year family association with the school.

It’s nice that we’ve been able to develop our friendship into a professional relationship.

– Danielle Gambacourta

Sara was inspired to complete a teaching degree – her second – while on a three-month mission trip to Broome. “You have so many good memories of primary school and then you become a teacher,” she said. “The first place I thought to be was at St John Vianney, because that was where all of the magic happened.”

Simon said he enjoyed working with his sister, and that other staff thought it was cute that they often had the same things to eat in their packed lunches. Conservatorium-trained, he said it was useful to compare teaching tactics with his peers since teaching from Kindergarten to Year 6 meant teaching in seven different ways. Where appropriate, Simon challenges the younger grades with the same activities given to the high school students he teaches for another two days in the school week. Students are currently learning percussion through Mexican, Arabic and African rhythms.

“For me it was great start to my teaching career,” he said. “I knew the teachers faces, the buildings, and the routine of the school day, so it was perfect. Some of our teachers who taught us are still here. That’s another big positive.”

That they have sought employment where they first gained their love of learning and teaching is very special.

– Phil Barrington

Kay Deligiannis is in her sixth year of teaching at St John Vianney. Her mother is still among the school’s parent helpers, building the literacy skills of young students with reading difficulties.

“She loves coming here and volunteers reading with the Kindergarten students,” Kay said. “I think the connection that we have with the school helps in feeling comfortable to come back here, but your role is different – you’re not a student, you’re a teacher.”

First year teacher Danielle Gambacourta is Kay’s grade partner. They attended Kindergarten together and were friends throughout high school. “It’s nice that we’ve been able to develop our friendship into a professional relationship as well,” Danielle said. “We both teach Kindergarten together. They’re cheeky but it’s really rewarding.”

Rebecca El Atrache’s own Year 6 teacher is now her colleague and grade partner teaching Year 5.

“When I first came back to teach it was the biggest shock, because she was so familiar,” Rebecca said. “Now it has become normal. She tells me stories from when she was teaching us and how every teacher wanted to teach our grade because it was the best grade.”

Principal Phil Barrington said the number of past students returning to the school as accomplished young teachers was a testament to the high quality of education it has offered over the years.

“The fact that these young teachers have decided on a career in primary school teaching says they have wonderful memories of their time here,” he said.  “That they are passionate about education and have sought employment here where they first gained their love of learning and teaching is very special. They bring an insight of the past history of the school, and have now become part of its future journey in educating the young children of the area.”

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