Val grew up in Ballarat and started school in the early 1940s, during World War II. Her mother was a teacher and her father worked in Melbourne on war-related business. She attended kindergarten, which she recalled was unusual for the time, before starting primary school at the State School in Humffray Street, Ballarat. One of her strongest memories of primary school was the care and commitment of her teachers. She remembered Miss Baxter, who helped her through her struggles with maths and sold silkworms to the children, encouraging them to be scientifically curious. She also recalls Mr. Sinclair, who brought gladioli into the classroom and ran a Friday afternoon quiz, which was very popular. Val completed her secondary school education at Ballarat Girls’ School and at 15 years of age went on to tertiary study at The School of Mines, where she trained in art and dressmaking. After completing her education, she worked as draughtswoman before becoming a teacher. The remainder of her career was spent teaching art and textiles at both secondary and tertiary levels. She taught at the secondary school that she had attended and notes the many changes that occurred there between her time as a student and a teacher, such as new buildings, the introduction of male teachers and changes in student attitude and discipline. In reflecting on her own school experiences, Val said that the most important thing was that ‘it broadened my mind and it prepared me for working’. Val’s experiences as a teacher allowed her to reflect on her own teachers and she ‘realised just what a wonderful set of people those teachers were’ and one of the strong memories of her teaching time was her Principal’s commitment to outdoor education through the purchase of some land for ‘a permanent school camp’. She recalled her experiences as a Girl Guide as valuable in enabling her to support the camping program at the school. In reflecting on the changes in education over her lifetime she noted the better conditions in which students now learnt and the increased range of subjects offered.
Primary: State School No. 27, Humffray Street, Ballarat (1940s)