Lawrie Shears was born in 1921 and began his schooling at Windsor Primary School on his sixth birthday. He relished the opportunities school afforded and went on to study at Elsternwick Primary, Elwood Central School and University High School. This was quite a feat, as his father didn’t know that high schools existed and no one in his family had pursued an academic path. Although Lawrie initially wanted to be a lawyer, he ‘showed some signs of being able to be a good teacher’ and on finishing his Leaving Certificate he was offered a Junior Teacher role at Miller Street in North Fitzroy. His experiences with his senior teacher, Pauline Knight at Miller Street convinced him that he ‘wanted to be a teacher’. He went on to study at Teachers College and took up his first teaching position at Korong Vale in 1943 where he ‘stayed in the local pub, played tennis and did all those things’. He moved on to Bairnsdale High School soon after and established a social sciences classroom, displaying a tendency towards innovation and leadership that would characterise the rest of his career. His next teaching position was at Dookie Agricultural School, where he revolutionised the timetable and syllabus, before heading to London on a John and Eric Smyth Travelling Scholarship to complete a PhD in the dynamics of leadership in adolescent school groups. When Lawrie returned to Australia he took on a number of roles in which he instituted significant changes in education. The first was as a Planning and Survey Officer, which involved establishing a large number of Teachers’ Colleges across Victoria and ensuring students from country areas were able to access training opportunities by providing hostel accommodation. His next move was to principal of Burwood Teachers’ College in 1961 and he recalls this was labelled the ‘golden age of teacher education’. His influences in this realm included instigating better connections between practising principals and teacher education institutions, and sending students on trips across Australia to learn about the country they would be teaching in. The next stage in Lawrie’s career was as Director of Education in Victoria. In this role he wrote a series of influential papers regarding various elements of the education system and had responsibility for ‘education from babies to adults’. At this time, he also became the president of the Victorian Institute of Educational Research, which would foreshadow the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and he recalls was ‘the premier institute in Australia’ at the time.
1. Students in class, Dookie Agricultural College, Victoria. Photographer Unknown. National Archives Australia, 11738199 2. Blacksmith's Shop at Dookie Agricultural College, 1945. Photographer J Gallagher. National Archives of Australia, 11738248 Melbourne Teachers College, c1950s. Photographer unknown. State Library Victoria, H2009.153/17 2. Lygon Street Building, University High, Parkville, Melbourne, 1966. Photographer unknown. Courtesy University High Alumni