Retiring high school teacher Tim Bradley received a standing ovation from a teary Year 12 at their final presentation on Friday, a mark of just how far the he had come since he gave his first ‘petrified’ address as a teacher in 1989.
Students of both sexes were in tears after Tim’s moving speech as the reality hit home that their calm, guiding force for the past six years would soon retire and they would move on.
On Friday, the agriculture teacher urged them to believe in themselves, to strive to be a champion, and to look him up if ever they needed him.
“It really got the waterworks going,” he chuckled later that afternoon.
“Then when they stood up and clapped that was just really unexpected.”
When he first addressed the group, they were wide-eyed Year 7 students and he promised he would be there for them until they finished Year 12.
Tim came late to teaching, taking his first job in Cowra at age 38 and spending the last 22 years at Eden.
In his younger days, Tim sold Coke Cola in New Zealand, soap for Lever and Kitchen and studied for a degree in agriculture.
When he first came to the area he worked as a landscaper and stonemason and owned a concrete truck.
“One day I decided I should do my dip ed (Diploma of Education),” he said.
“I didn’t know where it would lead or if I would like teaching but 23 years later I’m about to retire.
“I thought it would get easier as time when on but it doesn’t, the workload seems to get heavier and heavier every year.”
He believes agricultural studies will become more popular in the future, and hopes that its popularity at the school this year continues.
“It was the first year in 22 years where we had two Year 12 ag classes,” he said.
“I think it has a rosy future there’s lots of opportunities in ag for kids.
“People are thinking in a better way, instead of just taking off the land they are putting back in and keeping it going.”
When retirement comes in around seven weeks’ time, Tim plans to do a few projects at the 40 acre homestead at Lochiel where he lives with his wife.
They’ll be building, beekeeping, gardening, and tending to animals.
“We have lots of wallabies, kangaroos, possums, they’re the bane of my life being a gardener but you can get around that, there’s always a solution to a problem,” he said.
He’ll continue travelling the world, a lifestyle he began to enjoy from age 50, and continue his charity work in the Cambodian village Stentrong, on the Mekong River, where most of the population lives below the poverty line.
He was there in July this year, on a return trip from Europe, to celebrate a 10 year milestone with the people.
“Everything was unbelievable, we celebrated 10 years since we formed a church over there and everyone came over and celebrated,” he said.
“It was something I fell into and I really enjoy doing, lots of positive things have come from it.”
Some of those changes include the supply of crucial medicines and rice, buying assets such as land, a car and building a trade centre which teaches villagers to sew, fix machines and cars and a range of other life skills.
There’s a house in Phnom Penh where 12 girls are undertaking their tertiary studies and back at the village young children are rewarded with rice if they attend school.
The trip next year will be his 25th.
In 2011 he took a group of 12 students and three parents.
“I didn’t know how it would go but really it was one of the best trips I had over there,” he said.
“There was one girl who was really struggling with everything and after wards we couldn’t believe the change in her.
“Her positive attitude really changed her direction and she’s really going well now, if you just get one of those it’s awesome.”
Retiring will also mean more time for the Uniting Church where Tim is chairman of the South Coast branch (Wyndham and Merimbula) and occasionally he holds the service.
“I never thought I could stand up and hold an audience and over the years you get used to it,” he said.
“It’s amazing how it’s all coming together for me at the end.”