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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
STUDENTS BENEFIT WHEN
TEACHERS GIVE MORE
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"If anyone requires you to go one mile, go
two miles with him." (Mt 5:41) This notion
of 'going the extr a mile' is taken figur atively
by many who value generosity in
ser ving others.
It is taken literally by some as well.
Ross Wilson, and many teachers involved
in extra-curricular activities like Wilderness
Challenge, clock up off-road miles with
relish and achieve commendable outcomes.
Ross was motivated by an "inspirational
mentor " when posted to St Clare's,
Taree, in 1979. With this enthusiastic
science teacher, John Holland, he began
his 'ex tr a mile' activities, offering students
bushwalking, camping and canoeing in the
Ellenborough River area and the Upper
Manning. With the exper tise of another
teacher, Wayne McGr ath, a surfing camp at
Tiona was added.
Now in his tenth year as Student
Co-ordinator and English and Religion
Teacher at St Paul's High School, Boor agul,
Ross looks back on adventures on-track
and off. While at St Francis Xavier's College,
Hamilton, and St Catherine's, Singleton, he
had organised trekking trips into remote
areas of Nepal and Thailand. For thir teen
years at St Joseph's Lochinvar, assisted
by many "who perhaps got caught up in
my enthusiasm for the outdoor s", Ross
introduced students to the Allyn River,
Barrington Tops, Thredbo and
A Wilder ness Challenge progr am for
"troubled boys" in the mid-nineties tested
not only the boys' limits but proved to be
a real test for Ross and other teachers --
Steve Dunn, Peter Tavener, Bob Cook and
Neil Dawes. Learning suppor t teacher at St
Peter's , Maitland, Michelle Kinnane, initiated
the project, involving St Peter's and also St
A similar venture between St Peter's and
St Paul's resulted in, "perhaps the most
remarkable transformation I saw". From
the initial doubts of parents, through the
genuine str uggle of the kids involved, "the
sense of achievement at the conclusion was
Despite one par ticipant later becoming
the first 'death in custody' at Cessnock
Gaol, one suffering psychiatric episodes,
and another the victim of a fatal hit-run
accident, Ross says with sadness and
gratitude, "I was privileged to have shared
some inspir ational moments with them."
In 2010, a science teacher at St Paul's,
Deborah Thompson, introduced the Duke
of Edinburgh Award progr am. Ross wa s
involved as an accompanying teacher for
the Year 9 Bronze -level two -day bushwalks
and the Year s 10 and 11 Silver-level three-
day bushwalking and white-water canoeing.
The program encour ages 14 to 25 year-
olds to complete a group journey into an
unfamiliar environment; learn a new skill;
provide a community ser vice, and adopt
a physical fitness activity. The higher Silver
and Gold levels require increased time
commitments and skill levels. At Boor agul,
Ross has been assisted by committed
teachers ("especially Steve Thomas", he
says) to provide week-long end-of-year
activities . School balconies have been
the school-room for abseiling instr uction
before gr aduating to cliff faces in the
Watagans , as well as canyoning in the
Blue Mountains and the Bar rington Tops.
Recently, activities at Tr ee Tops Adventure
Park, Minmi, have been added.
In 2012, 23 Year 10 students completed
a World Challenge immer sion in Vietnam.
Included with the exhilar ating experience
of Vietnamese bus tr avel was a seven-day
trek through hill tribe villages and to the
peak of Mount Fanzipan (the highest on
the South East Asian mainland) and four
days of social justice work at community
and government agencies working with
the poor and disabled. "In some cases
the community work under taken has
developed the student more than any thing
else." Michael Coleman's dedication to
preparing Meals on Wheels before school
is inspiring. Some students earn admiration
for their work developing reading skills with
neighbouring primary school children.
What motivates Ross and the many
"I guess, a s with any educator, there is a joy
in giving -- in teaching new skills to students,
and in sharing their happiness and pride
as they achieve new outcomes. The old
adage, 'it's not the destination but the
jour ney that's impor tant' is also relevant.
There's something special in sitting around
a campfir e recounting the events of the day,
the laughter and the exaggerated stories. In
truth I'll use any excuse to 'go bush', as my
wife knows only too well ! "
"Any excuse" maybe. But also the call of
love to give more.
inser ted monthly into the Newcastle
Herald, Maitland Mercury, Scone
Advocate, Singleton Argus, Muswellbrook
Chronicle and Manning River Times.
CONTACT CRAIG SLAVEK
E cslavek@ fairfaxmedia.com.au
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