Almost two decades later, Wagga Christian College’s principal is ready to close the book on his career as the school year draws to a close.
The long-serving principal of the Wagga Christian College Hugh MacCallum said the time “feels right” to retire, putting an end to almost 40 years in teaching.
“I’ve been teaching almost all of my career in the Riverina, a little bit of time in Sydney and in Canada, and I’m looking forward to moving on and not being the person in charge,” Mr MacCallum said.
“The Riverina has been a remarkably wonderful place to do most of my teaching and while I’m retiring, I hope to do some work cheering on the people who are in charge.”
Mr MacCallum said his passion for schools and seeing them thrive was one of the reasons that led him to pursuing a career in education.
“Our society is blessed with young people and they are teachable and seeing young lives formed well has been an absolute privilege,” he said.
“I think part of the reason why I became a teacher was to help emerging adults do well, to be able to work out who they are and be confident in their own gifts and attributes, something I found quite hard in my early teenage years.”
Riverina students have a much more generous view of life.Hugh MacCallum, retiring principal
Mr MacCallum said one of the biggest challenges over the course of his teaching career has been trust.
“I think communities can thrive when there is trust between adults and children and when it’s destroyed or people are suspicious of one another, it can be much harder,” he said.
“I think that students’ education flourishes in an environment where there is trust and when they know that they will be valued as individuals.”
Mr MacCallum said the introduction of technology in the classroom has been a “fundamental change” and one he hopes will not pose as a distraction.
“I want to see us use our technology well and not become a slave to it, but at the same time I think there are emerging health issues with devices, like posture and the health of the brain affected by too much screen time,” he said.
“Another change I’ve witnessed has been the pressures on the family unit and I believe the government has sought to fill the void as families have broken down in my teaching time and more are expecting institutions, like schools, to bridge the gap.
“I believe as Australian’s we should say that’s not good enough and claim our responsibilities and our privileges as parents in families to raise our children in partnerships with schools.
“This school’s aim is to partner with parents and I don’t believe anyone intends teachers to replace parents, but sometimes by default that can happen.”
Being a principal is a very challenging role and Mr MacCallum said principals are regularly facing some misconceptions in the community.
“Our role as a principal is to set a vision for the community that we’re apart of,” he said.
“Too often we’re portrayed, and sometimes we deserve it, as people who are power hungry or are wanting to control our world rather than opening up opportunities,” he said.
“I meet a lot of principals and the vast majority of them work very diligently and often during the non-term periods to help their staff, students and families to survive and this is often lost.”
Mr MacCallum spoke fondly of his time at Wagga Christian College and said his biggest privilege has been witnessing a school grow in its confidence and character.
“I believe in the Riverina, the students have a much more generous view of life and therefore we need to be both proud of this and help the rest of Australia and urban areas, see what community looks like,” he said.
“One of the things I see as the great privileges of the Riverina or regional Australia, is the role the media has in building community and I see that as being very different to the role the media plays in larger, urban areas.”