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Much more than a job


As editor of The Southern Cross one of the highlights of the year for me is attending the Catholic Education SA Awards and presenting certificates to the recipients in categories sponsored by our publication.

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It is so inspiring to hear about the contribution and commitment of the people who work and volunteer in our Catholic schools – some of them still fresh from university, others who have been in the system for decades. All are united by a passion for making a difference to the lives of their students and are deeply grounded in their faith as they do so.

But what is perhaps the most delightful part of the evening is the presence and reaction of family members accompanying their sons, daughters, wives, husbands, partners or friends.

It shows that no matter what age your child or parent is, you still want to join in the celebration of their achievements and you can’t help but be proud of them.

Take 95-year-old Keith Belton whose son Paul, principal of St Paul’s College, won the award for Leadership Excellence.

Nothing was going to stop the chirpy Keith from being there on this special occasion, along with Paul’s wife Deidre and their six children. Keith is a living legend himself, a long-time member of the lay Carmelites in Adelaide and the father of nine children. Still living independently at Myrtle Bank, he quickly threw away his walking stick when the opportunity came to be photographed with Paul and the family (pictured above).

Similarly, when education support officer Louise Stavrou accepted her award, the beaming smiles of her three children were noted by the observant Jess Adamson who hosted the awards. There may have even been a tear in the eye of one or two attendees during the night.

In nearly all of the acceptance speeches, the recipients mentioned the support of their families on their journey in education and their love for their vocation.

Samaritan College Performing Arts teacher Winnie Fitzgerald spoke movingly of her Scottish immigrant parents’ strong desire for their children to have a “good education”.

As Education Minister Blair Boyer pointed out, at a time when there is plenty of negativity and bad press about teaching, it’s vital that we balance this with the many positive stories and experiences.

Speaking of good news stories and the power of education, what an incredible journey Nagina Zhara has been on since her family was deported from Adelaide 20 years ago. While the time the Bakhtiari children spent at St Aloysius and Saint Ignatius’ was relatively brief, clearly it had a significant impact – both as children dealing with the trauma of displacement and, for Nagina especially, later in life.

Kudos to St Aloysius principal Paddy McEvoy who heard that Nagina was back in Adelaide and asked her to share her story at the school’s Mercy Day Mass. When she discovered Nagina was studying teaching, Paddy asked her work in their Out of School Hours Care program which led to her teaching at the college in 2024, after she graduated.

Nagina had apparently kept in touch with one of her teachers, Jo Tapp, and that’s how the reconnection with her old school came about – further testament of the capacity of teachers to make a difference.

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