At the end of last Term long time Safety Bay Senior High School staff member Decima Wilson made the decision to hang up the apron after 45 years teaching Home Economics.
Growing up in the wheatbelt town of Dalwallinu, the decision to become a teacher was one that came early for Decima. “We used to catch a bus from our farm to the town and I can vividly remember I used to get to school very early; and when I’d get there, the teacher would get me to write the maths up on the board for her because I had neat writing.
After spending the first few years of her life on a farm outside Dalwallinu, Decima’s family moved into town and settled into life in the country town. “We were on a farm until Year 4 and then we moved into town and lived in an old house near the primary school while we built a house. Around the same time that we moved into our new house, we moved from the old primary school to the district high which they had just built.
“Our house was at one end of town and the high school was at the other end of town so we had to ride to school.
“I couldn’t wait till the Christmas Holidays when we would go to my grandparent’s house in Perth and we would go to the Coles Variety Store in the city. They used to have these little glass compartments with all the stationary in, so I would go get my notepad and a pencil. I’ve always had a love of stationery.” Decima said.
After leaving the District High in Dalwallinu, Decima boarded for two years at Swanleigh Hostel in Midland and attended Hampton Senior High School. Decima began her teaching career in 1976 after training at the Secondary Teachers College majoring in Home Economics with a minor in Social Studies.
Initially teaching at Albany Senior High School, followed by a stint at Mount Lawley Senior High School, Decima then spent a year teaching at South Fremantle Senior High School (now Fremantle College). This was followed by a semester at Kwinana Senior High School (now Gilmore College) before Decima (then Mrs Lund) joined the staff of Safety Bay Senior High School in 1983.
For Decima, Safety Bay Senior High School became like a second home and she soon took up teaching the newly introduced subject of childcare and was involved in running the virtual Baby Program in the school for many years.
“When Child Care and Development was introduced into the school, I was the only Home Economics teacher in the school with children so I got the job of teaching the subject.”
“The first person that I saw when I walked into the staff room on my first day was my old Science teacher from Year 9 in Dalwallinu. It was comforting to see a familiar face.”
“Then a few years later I walked in and Avril Lee was here [at Safety Bay SHS], she had been one of my students in Albany.
“There’s also [current staff members] Katrina Brooker, Kerry Bailey and Cory Jones who are all ex-students as well,” Decima said.
Decima had taught Avril Lee [current Head of English and Languages] at Albany Senior High School, where Avril recalls she was a young, enthusiastic, vibrant, and kind teacher with incredibly neat handwriting. “I remember she was very popular with the boys with many a broken heart left,” Avril said.
English teacher Katrina Brooker (nee Richards) had Decima for childcare when she was in Year 10. “I can remember doing an autobiographical project that was a baby journal from then to now was awarded high marks. It was handwritten with photos and slides of me when I was a baby. Much to my mother’s horror they were pasted in and were never returned to their original home.
“I remember her being fairly strict but she had a good connection with the students,” Katrina said.
One interesting story that comes to mind for Decima was when she caught some kids scampering back to school across the oval. “I caught some kids with a bag of marijuana once, a full Coles bag worth that they had stolen from someone’s garden. They’d jumped over the fence and stolen it.”
“The students were trying to deny it, but I was standing at the sewing room door and saw them walking back across the oval and as soon as they saw me, they threw the bag on the ground behind the demountable.”
I said “What’s that guys?” “Nothing”, they said and I said “Well can you bring that ‘nothing’ here?” So …. they bought it over to me and I couldn’t believe it,” Decima said.
“It was funny because when I marched them up to the office the Deputy was walking around and I said “Oh I’ve got something for you” but he didn’t believe me until I opened the bag and showed him.
For Decima, the joy of teaching is being with the students and seeing them grow up and learn something new.
“I had a relief class the other day and I was looking at their photos … and I was thinking wow you’ve changed, some of them with really long hair in Year 7 have got short hair now or the other way around. Some of them have changed a lot, some look exactly the same.”
One thing Decima is looking forward to in retirement is the opportunity to do some long-awaited spring-cleaning. “When you are teaching full time and you’re raising two kids on your own you don’t get a lot of time to do the spring cleaning.
“So that is my big plan to start from one end of the house and work all the way through, declutter and get rid of all the rubbish that I’ve been wanting to get rid of.
“I was hoping to hang on until I got to teach grandchildren of children I’ve taught. I have taught lots of children of children I have taught. One of them said to me ‘Oh Mum said to wish you a happy retirement.’
From all of us at Safety Bay Senior High we wish Decima all the best for a long and happy well-deserved retirement.