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Celebrating 35 years in the Classroom

The self-described ‘light bulb moment’ came while working at Horsham High as a general studies teacher."It was 15 periods a week, about half of the students’ timetable. Back then they combined English, history and geography into one class," Mrs Mather said."A new student transferred in through the year; he had never been to a mainstream school and had a significant intellectual disability."In 1977, there was no education support staff in the classroom, leaving Erica with two options: ignore the issue or go back to university."My journey with this particular student motivated me to complete formal qualifications in 1979."Erica Mather’s education career is littered with instances of fight or flight moments; the former was the only option taken on each occasion.Studying at the University of Melbourne from 1970 to 1973, Erica earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma in Education, specialising in English and History."Student activism seemed to be the norm.


There were frequent demonstrations on campus; it was the time of moratoriums against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and conscription."Protest in Melbourne was a world away from Portland High and her previous life on a farm in Tyrendarra.After stints in Stawell, Portland and Horsham High School, Mrs Mather found herself back in Portland working under beloved principal Bill Golding to assist with remedial education."It was during the construction phase of the smelter. There were many students who had experience an interrupted education, having attended numerous schools."They had enormous needs in literacy and numeracy, and sometimes these students were marginalised in other ways. Many only stayed a term; when the job had finished the family moved on."Over time Mrs Mather’s role grew as not only the school but her family did too; after extended leave from 1989 to 1996, her place of employment had changed from Portland High School to Portland Secondary College.


Her current role is Coordinator of Integration and Student Support ProgramsThe important role involves implementing school-based support and liaising with some local and external services to optimise student outcomes."The program involves inclusive, tailor support, which maximises student involvement in both our school and community."A wall of fame in her office speaks volumes of her long-lasting support, with pictures and articles about students framed and hung with pride."Over many years students have inspired me with the determination and confidence to take on new challenges, stepping outside their comfort zones to pursue exciting, individual pathways."In a journey that started 45 years ago, Mrs Mather has no plans on stopping any time soon."I have my health, and I am passionate about my job. Maybe in a few years I’ll transition into something else, but for now I’m here."


celebrating 35 years in classroom


To download a pdf of this article click here.


Photos courtesy of the Portland Observer.