New buildings officially open

NAMING HONOUR: Mount Gambier's Mary Anne Fenwick and Toni Veronas celebrate having buildings named after them at Mount Gambier High School

Charlotte Varcoe

FORMER Mount Gambier High School teachers have been recognised with school buildings, built as part of a $6m school upgrade, named after them.

The new buildings and upgrades were funded by the State Government, and were officially opened recently at Mount Gambier High School.

Opened by the Minister for Education, Training and Skills, Blair Boyer, the redevelopment included the construction of two new buildings as well as upgrades to the school’s science laboratories.

In line with the tradition of the school, the new spaces have been named after previous staff members Mary Anne Fenwick, Toni Vorenas and Bill Downs, who will now be eternally remembered at the school after decades of dedication to education.

Ms Fenwick spent more than 25 years at Mount Gambier High School after beginning as an English teacher in the 1970s.

She then became Junior School Assistant Principal and Acting Principal and was serving as the Deputy Principal at the time of her retirement in 2019.

She was also a key supporter in the New Arrivals Program which assists Congolese and Karenni students as they integrate into mainstream schooling.

Known within the community for her popular business, Metro Cafe, Ms Vorenas first started out as an English teacher at Mount Gambier High School under the leadership of Garry Costello.

She helped develop the Link after school program which supported disengaged students and gave them the opportunity to reconnect with their education.

After his passing last year, Mount Gambier High School also paid tribute to Bill Downs who was not only a student at the high school in the 1960’s but returned as a teacher in 1972.

Mr Downs taught geography, maths, science and biology and was the coach of several successful state teams for cricket and football before retiring in 2007.

Speaking on the honour, Ms Vorenas said teaching was her “greatest love” and knowing a building was named after her made her feel emotional.

“The whole idea is when you teach, that it is a selfless thing, it is something you should do with your heart,” Ms Vorenas said.

“You don’t expect that level of gratitude and you really don’t expect to see your name on a building so it is a very surreal experience.

“I worked under the guidance of Ms Fenwick and when I first arrived I thought I was going to change the world, and I soon realised if you change one student’s perception on education we have changed their world because you never know what that person is going to end up doing.”

Ms Fenwick agreed, stating she never expected to have a building named after her at the high school, but reflected fondly on her time teaching.

“My time at Mount Gambier High School was a special time and there were elements of love and lots of like-minded, hard working people where we all shared ideas,” Ms Fenwick said.

“If my father had not come to the teachers college and fought for me to stay there after failing every subject in my first year, I would never have been a teacher, let alone for 50 or so years.

“As a teacher, when a student or parent says thank you for something that is the recognition you expect and you carry on with your day, but to have the honour of a building named after you is something else.”

The family of the late Mr Downs was also in attendance at the opening.