Janet Gill Kirkman taking on different role

By Tara Whitsed

If it were not for her determination to work rurally, Janet Gill Kirkman may have never ventured to the Goulburn Valley.

Born in Gippsland and schooled in Traralgon, Ms Gill Kirkman said it was a desire to work in the country that had her attend Bendigo Teacher’s College in the 1970s before being appointed to teach at Wodonga.

It was just 12 months later when she moved to the Goulburn Valley to teach at Gowrie Street Primary School.

Decades on, Ms Gill Kirkman has been a pillar in the district’s education community, having worked as a regional network leader overseeing many of the region’s teaching staff.

Seven years ago, Ms Gill Kirkman took on a new challenge when she became principal of Verney Road School.

‘‘Students with disability was not my field — leadership was my field,’’ she said.

‘‘But I’ve really learned a lot, and still continue to learn, about disability.’’

And after almost a decade of leadership at the school, Ms Gill Kirkman said it was bittersweet that she had decided to resign from the role, finishing up yesterday.

‘‘It has been a fantastic privilege to finish my career here at this school,’’ she said.

While she assured she was not retiring, Ms Gill Kirkman said it was some advice from her late sister that prompted the change.

‘‘She told me ‘for the past 43 to 44 years you’ve worked really hard’,’’ she said.

‘‘And she suggested maybe slowing down and doing things a little differently for the last 10 years of my career.’’

Ms Gill Kirkman certainly hit the ground running at Verney Road School, committing to using augmentative and alternative communication with students to ensure they were able to learn.

Her former colleague turned boss Marian Lawless, senior leader at the Department of Education and Training, spoke of her drive during a recent farewell ceremony.

‘‘Your true north is the student at the centre of your decisions and, at the end, what we can say is that your belief that all students can learn and they should have a voice, as evidenced by your commitment to AAC for instruction and communication in all environments, will be your lasting legacy,’’ Ms Lawless said.

Ms Gill Kirkman was also farewelled by former colleague and The Apprenticeship Factory chief executive Paula Ryan, who echoed what a hard worker she was.

‘‘From the first impression I had of Janet nearly 30 years ago, some things have never changed — she is a dedicated, hard-working, passionate teacher; an athletic, energetic, caring, nurturing person who genuinely cares about people,’’ Ms Ryan said.

Ms Gill Kirkman said it was bittersweet to be leaving Verney Road School, but she was incredibly proud of developing the school to achieve its high-performing status.

‘‘I’m also really proud of the leadership here,’’ she said and added each and every staff member stepped up when it came to leadership.

She said the students always brought a smile to her face and it was the little things they did too.

‘‘I would like to thank the whole school community — the staff, students, parents and carers and the student council; they are all very supportive because we are supportive in return,’’ she said.

Ms Gill Kirkman said she would remain in education, mentoring principals in the area, but a few trips away in the caravan with her husband Greg Kirkman were definitely in order.