Happy 100th Birthday Nancy Newbon!
Posted on December 10, 2020
Nancy Newbon is a beloved former Friends’ high school maths teacher who taught many students between 1954 and 1981. Nancy Newbon was born in Hobart in 1920, 100 years ago! I meet her in her room at Barossa Park Lodge, where tea, cookies and chocolates were flowing
Nancy attended Hobart High School and after graduating, pursued a career in primary school teaching. At the age of 20, World War II was beginning and Nancy was given the choice to be posted at a primary school on Bruny Island or head to the north of the state and teach high school French at Scottsdale High. Nancy, thinking forward and not wanting to be stuck on the Island for the foreseeable future as the war continued, chose to venture north.
Shortly after her arrival at Scottsdale, Nancy was approached by the headmaster and told, “…you completed matric level maths, you can teach high school maths.” Nancy recalls the new French teacher was an “…elderly lady, in her 40s who spoke fluent French.” I watch as she smiles, realising perhaps with the hindsight of 100 years under her belt, 40 may not be ‘elderly’.
Nancy recalls, “…so I sat in my room and had a think and I thought, yes, I can do that.” Nancy says she really liked teaching maths and was a lot better at it than teaching French. However, before a year was out, a new Headmaster arrived at the school from interstate and he brought with him his own maths teacher and Nancy was no longer required at the school for the following year.
“The Education Department promised me they would send me to Hobart High School when I got back to Hobart but when I returned I was sent to the very much unfinished New Town Tech.” Nancy recalls the playground was a “muddy swamp” and almost every lesson, the class was interrupted by a tradesperson, walking in, climbing his ladder into the ceiling and banging around in the roof. She says, “when I saw the advertisement in the paper for the Maths teacher position at Friends’, I applied for it and got it!” She recalls that “when I was interviewed for the position of mathematics teacher, I was admitted by a maid wearing a black dress and a white, starched apron.”
After being appointed to the role at Friends’, Nancy tells me she bought a property on Valentine Street in New Town for $5,000, where she settled in and began what would be a 27-year career at the School. Digging around in the archives, we managed to find Nancy’s payslip from 1970 where she received $103 per fortnight, I mentioned this to her and she said, “yes that’s right, that was a good wage.”
Among her most cherished memories, Nancy speaks fondly about her friendship with Tony Hill, her fellow Maths teacher, who she still speaks to often. Nancy gestures to a framed photo of Tony among pictures of her family. “He is one of the only teachers I taught with who is still alive and a wonderful man.” Nancy also tells me about long bush walks up on the mountain with former English teacher, Jean Yeates, as well as nips of sherry in Jean’s office after work.
Nancy describes her friend Jean as “the best English teacher, that you just didn’t dare cross. She was strong in her teaching and very strong in grammar.” I wonder if this is why the two teachers were such good friends, as Nancy herself says that “teaching maths is a serious business and I don’t like to crack jokes because students take you less seriously.”
When asked, what do you think makes a good teacher? Nancy first responds, “I don’t know” but she suddenly sits up, raises her finger and says, “communication and passion for the subject. If you aren’t interested in what you are teaching, you can’t expect students to be.”
After retirement in 1981, Nancy enjoyed gardening, sewing and walking. She says these are all things that are good for the soul. Last year, the class of 1969 invited Nancy to their 50th school reunion, to which Nancy responded “I never like to pass up a free meal but I worry I will fall over!” Instead some of her former students visited Nancy in Barossa park after the reunion to share photos and stories.
Nancy shows me proudly the letter from Her Majesty The Queen, congratulating her on her 100th birthday. “She is a wonderful woman.” Nancy remarks.
The School would like to say big thank you for Nancy’s years of service to the School and wish her the happiest of birthdays in her centenary year.