Wendy Johnston ('79, nee Giddens)

Wendy Johnston ('79, nee Giddens)

I am reminded of school everywhere I look these days – because 35 years after graduating I returned as an employee (and before that, as a parent). Every time I go past a certain Year 9 classroom in Avoca (the newest building back then), I remember swinging on my chair and fighting back tears having failed a Maths test for the first time. We were not taught to embrace failure as a learning opportunity in the 70s!

I enjoyed economics with Mrs McCracken, French with Miss Rees, English with Mrs Bingham, Biology with Ros Thomas, struggled more with Chemistry but did enjoy Miss Garrahy (with whom I still cross paths regularly as she makes her way to the new chem labs in the Eunice Centre – devoted to her craft and the school for over 40 years). Today I also enjoy sharing memories with Miss Surtees who is now in a senior leadership position in the primary school but who taught PE in my final years at school. This year we both went to the Katherine Show to visit current families in the Northern Territory and promote the school to others seeking a boarding school for their daughters. Who could have predicted 40 years ago our paths would cross in such a fashion and we would be road tripping in the Top End together!

I still see my other PE teacher, Miss Dyason, and Miss Rees, both still volunteering at the school. Their lifelong love and dedication to the school is remarkable.

I had a crack at a lot of sport in my school days but was master of none. I made the swimming team in Year 12 because they were desperate for a freestyle swimmer in the senior B relay team; I ran the 800m at GPS track and field as it was called back then – again, because desperate measures were called for! I tried gymnastics and can still remember my arm strength or lack thereof not being very helpful on the uneven bars, clinging on for dear life in what is now the Supplies Shop but was a ‘modern’ gymnasium back then. Being a former ballet student, I coped a little better on floor and beam. I say ‘former’ as I had given up ballet in Year 8 after being asked to trial for shot put, javelin and discus, because, as the teacher put it, I was one of the ‘bigger girls’! I thought if that was the case, I wasn’t destined for a career on the dance floor! However, my arms were definitely more balletic than they were made to propel a shot put any great distance and my ‘throwing’ career was short-lived. I can laugh about it now but funny how some things are seared into your memory, forever! I hid my modest sporting prowess in team sports and played netball and softball for most of my school years.

We played netball on the two all-weather courts where the Arts Centre now sits – how many times did we slip down the steep slope from Circular Drive, particularly in Jacaranda season after a Spring shower! Miss Clarke would give us instructions as she rhythmically tapped her hip bones with the heels of her palms.

Like so many of the girls I see here today – we probably bit off more than we could chew – but chomped furiously – and made the most of all the school had to offer, which shaped and moulded us in more ways than we perhaps like to admit.