Mapleton State School principal Jen Clarke with Year 3 students Elizabeth, Ellen and Laura.
Mapleton State School principal Jen Clarke with Year 3 students Elizabeth, Ellen and Laura. Warren Lynam

Principal retires after 50-year career

RETIRING Mapleton State School principal Jen Clarke will occasionally ask a couple of kids who have been naughty to come down to the creek with her and pull out a few weeds.

She then makes a point of thanking them for doing a good job "so they get some positive feedback instead of always hearing negative."

Dr Clarke laughs at suggestions she is a "kid whisperer" but it is fair to say she has learned a thing or two about wrangling them since she began her career in education 50 years ago.

She has learned that a well placed nod for a job well done, especially coming from the principal, can have a big impact.

"Every child just loves you to recognise them as an individual and that hasn't changed. With some of our more difficult kids, I make a point of chatting with them, talking about this and that," she said.

"That little bit of recognition, there's someone other than their parents or teacher who is interested in them, can make a difference.

"It took me a long time to realise what an impact a principal can have on the school."

Dr Clarke has packed up her desk but her wisdom will be missed by her colleagues and the community.

"She's considered the mother or grandmother of all schools on top of the Range," said Education Queensland assistant regional director Paul Williamson.

Dr Clarke started her career at Theodore, and then went to Forest Hill, Charleville, a one-teacher school at Norwin, Nobby, Highfields, Amberley and Buderim before being posted at Mapleton.

The daughter of a teacher, she can remember wanting to teach from the age of four and said she had loved her job.

"I've never regretted for one moment being a teacher," she said.

"I really enjoy the kids. The kids make me proud every day I can be watching a child who couldn't read something suddenly understand what it's all about or having a respectful conversation with an older child about something really important in life.

"It's wonderful to watch them start off in Prep and grow up to be people that we're really proud of."

Dr Clarke said retirement had not really hit her yet.

"I'm not being sad about it because I've got something to look forward to," she said.

Her "to do" list includes travelling internationally and overseas, volunteering with two or three community groups, taking on the librarian's role at the Maleny RSL, pilates once a week, knitting, crochet and quilting, and working with her husband on their 12ha property.

"I reckon I've got enough stuff that I'll start off running," she said.


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