Since the early 1980’s, Mrs Sally Hopper has been a fixture in SCEA classrooms, teaching more than one thousand pupils during her tenure across Kalamunda, Mundaring and Midland. As an Early Years specialist, she has often been the first teacher that young children encounter as they begin their long journey into Christian education. However, most people would be unaware of how Sally came to faith and how her quiet determination to succeed shaped her into a teacher that would survive more than four decades of teaching within the SCEA system.
“I was sixteen years old in 1976, and it was at Lesmurdie Baptist Church. I gave my life to the Lord at that time. My parents, who were not church-goers, were supportive of it,” says Sally.
Sally studied Primary Education for three years at Curtin University (known as the Western Australian Institute of Technology at the time) and then spent two years out at Norseman (south of Kalgoorlie) and a further year at Queens Park Primary School. At this time, family friends Peter and Beth Bailey called Sally up and said: “We’re starting a new Christian school. You’re the kind of person we need!”
It’s always nice to be ‘head-hunted’ for a job, isn’t it? The Cambridge Dictionary defines it in these terms:
“To be persuaded by someone to leave your current job through the offer of another job with more pay and a higher position”
But it seems that perhaps the Bailey’s initial compliments on Sally’s abilities in the classroom still required some rigorous testing by SCEA’s first teacher and inaugural Principal of Midland Christian School, Mrs Val Campbell.
The Kalamunda Christian School project did not have any teachers at this time, and only a handful of committed families had signed enrolment slips. Mrs Campbell brought together a Selection Panel of eight to interview the founding teachers for the second SCEA school in late 1983.
“I do remember it being quite nerve-wracking. Val remarked that I was very quietly spoken, and she questioned whether the students would actually do what they were told from such a shy person. My response was simple – the students will do what I ask them to do.”
Determination with a smile.
The steely resolve behind that grin is a result of Sally’s experience in difficult conditions in rural Norseman. While contemporary parents will remark that Sally ‘makes it look so easy’ to teach young students, early indications of the ‘1984 Sally Hopper’ is that of a driven and motivated individual.
“I studied for three years and I knew what I wanted to do with my life. The rural teaching was difficult, but I knew it was good training for the career I had ahead of me.”
The rudimentary conditions of the start-up school in Kalamunda did not phase Sally.
Inaugural KCS Principal Mr Greg Wells was hired and asked to find a place to teach the new students. An abandoned shopping centre in Bickley was designated as the new school. Frequent power outages, no heating or cooling options and a vacant block next door that was home to a healthy population of snakes and spiders was Sally’s place of work for the foreseeable future.
“I was young, and I didn’t know the things I didn’t know. Would I start a Christian school with those conditions? Probably not. But we were keen to make it work.”
After ten years with Kalamunda and Midland (now Swan Christian College: Junior Campus), Sally spent two years in Queensland, came back and had a child, and then spent the next twenty years in continuous service with SCEA – currently serving as a Year One Teacher at Kalamunda Christian school under Dr Gregg Weaver.
What’s your advice for today’s teachers in SCEA?
“Don’t be overwhelmed. Always ask for help. There are staff that want to help you, so always reach out. You may feel alone in the classroom, but you’re not alone. You can absolutely do this. What do we try to do with our classes? Build relationships, create safe places to learn, encourage a culture of inclusivity where everyone is valued. It’s the same for teachers.”
Sally’s first assembly in 1984 at the Bickley Shopping Centre.
Principal Mr Greg Wells and founding parent Dr Tim Hanna can be seen in the background.