Peter Kendrick was a Wodonga High boy who was good at maths and went on to teach it. And he has been doing so for the past 36 years.
Twenty-one of those years have been at Girton Grammar and Peter was recently bestowed an Honorary Associate Life Membership of the Old Girtonians’ Association in recognition of his service to the school. This accolade is coupled with Peter’s decision to retire from teaching at the end of 2014.
Son of an army mechanic in RAEME, Peter’s family moved around country Victoria with his father’s work, so Peter saw the inside of quite a few different schools. Perhaps it was attending and enjoying different schools at formative stages of life that gave Peter the teaching bug.
After going to the big-smoke and completing his teaching degree at La Trobe University, Peter spent the next 6 years teaching maths at Fawkner High School in Melbourne. But the call of the bush was too strong. He headed to Sun Country on the Murray to teach mathematics at Numurkah High School, where he happily lived and worked for 9 years.
“The town’s population was about 3,000 and the school had 800 students so the school was the lifeblood of the town in some ways.
“But I was itching for something different after a while and was fortunate to be selected for a teacher exchange in Oxford (UK), which I immediately took up.
“Oxford was a highlight of my teaching career and has had a lasting impact on my life. I developed many strong friendships and I visit whenever I can.
“After the buzz of teaching somewhere like Oxford, as much as I loved Numurkah, it suddenly felt uncomfortably small, which lead me to Bendigo and to Girton Grammar,” he said.
After teaching Senior School maths at Girton for 20 years, Peter has seen extraordinary change.
“The growth of the school in terms of student numbers, staff numbers and buildings in the time I have been here is phenomenal and probably unrivalled anywhere else in Australia.
“The academic reputation of the school has always been excellent and this has remained the case throughout the school’s expansion.
“It has been great to have more staff to interact with and to share resources and ideas. As well as having a close connection with other maths teachers, I also have a close connection to the English and Music faculties,” he said.
Peter plays guitar, and has even recorded a CD, with his three children, David, Sheldon and Eloise. They often play live music together at fundraising events. All three children have inherited numbers in their DNA. David is a maths teacher, Sheldon tutors maths at Monash University and Eloise works in Melbourne for a finance company.
When he is not playing music in his spare time, Peter is cycling. As Manager in Charge of cycling at Girton, Peter organises weekly bike rides for staff and students and has linked in with the Energy Breakthrough students. There are about 15 riders, six of whom have qualified to compete in The Victorian School Cycling Championships being held in Bendigo in October this year.
When asked about memorable Girton moments, Peter says that the House Singing is a stand-out event.
“What amazes me is that every single student, from Year 7 to 12, stands up to sing in public. It’s a collaborative and courageous effort that always results in memorable performances.
“I will also take away with me the satisfaction of working with students who try their best and come to a deeper understanding of maths.
“The students who struggle and work hard and then do better than expected are the ones who have kept me motivated.
“Looking up the results of these students is what I do first when the VCE scores are released – I’m not just looking down the list for the best score,” he said.
Peter said that although the maths syllabus does not change dramatically from year to year, the development of new technology and the changing students and staff keeps the job interesting. At the end of his first year at Girton, as Head of Mathematics, Peter was instrumental in introducing graphic calculators to the school which at the time were allowed but not compulsory.
“There were questions over whether the students were too young for such devices and whether the technology might quickly be superseded, or whether we were over committing by requiring staff to learn how to use them.
“It turned out to be a great decision and the complexity of problems that the calculators allowed us to deal with deepened the students understanding of maths,” he said.
Peter has already done extensive world travel both with his family when they were young and later with his wife, Pam, who works for Golden City Support Services and has a background in PE teaching, including a stint at Girton in in 1995/6. Bike riding has been a feature of many of Peter and Pam’s trips with Italy in Peter’s sights for 2016 with a bunch of biking buddies. In the nearer future, Peter plans to walk the Overland Trail in Tasmania, visit friends in America and go to Vietnam next year for a 40 year university reunion.
We wish Peter all the best in his retirement and will be sure to look out for him on his bike about town, gigging with the family band at a pub or volunteering as an usher at the Capital theatre with his wife Pam.