School's finally out for popular teacher after 40 enjoyable years
A Palmerston North teacher who has been looking after small children for more than four decades says the staff and students remain the highlight.
St Mary's School teacher Judy Willson is retiring today after a 40-plus-year teaching tenure.
She studied at Teachers' College during the 1960s before beginning her career as a 19-year-old at Milson School.
Since then she has worked at number of primary schools in Palmerston North, including Ashhurst, Awapuni and Roslyn schools, before settling, for 24 years, at St Mary's School.
Willson, who prides herself on her positive attitude in class, taught mainly year 1 and 2 students, aged 5 and 6.
"It's a really big responsibility with the 5-year-olds to know you're getting them under way, but that's also what I liked about it, being almost the first step in the process," she said.
The biggest changes have been technology advances and the increasingly multicultural mix of students.
"I found that really rewarding working with, and getting to know, so many people from so many different backgrounds," she said.
"Not only with the children, but with their parents as well, finding out and talking about different situations, which in the end come back to the same challenges, same problems and same solutions we've all faced - you soon realise we're all very similar."
Looking back, Willson said she'd been lucky to have such an enjoyable career in the classroom.
"I wouldn't change where I work; obviously the children, but also the colleagues have been the best thing about it all," she said.
"It is with a heavy heart I'm giving up the teaching side, the nine-to-three side of things, but it is demanding and I'm confident I've made the right choice and done it at the right time."
Principal Suneal Singh said students were blessed with a wonderful example of faith and service in Willson.
"In working with her these last 12 years, I have experienced first hand her gentle soul, her firm hand, her sense of humour and her intense devotion to our students and our Catholic faith - we will truly miss her."
Willson was still working out her retirement plans, but spending more time with her three grandchildren and walking her dog were on the agenda.