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From a pathology unit to Moree Secondary College – teaching is in the blood for Peter Lyons

WITH Year 12 done and dusted, and another crop of Moree Secondary College seniors about to embark on life beyond high school, teacher Peter Lyons admits his anticipation awaiting HSC results often rivals his students.

“It can be a time of mixed emotions. But, as a teacher, to see the students achieve their goals and fulfil their potential is hugely satisfying,” he says.

He describes one particular teaching highlight, involving two of his past Agricultural students.

“As the HSC loomed we would spend our weekends cramming every minute we could, so much so it took me back to my days of exam week at university,” he said.

“But it was such a rewarding moment when the students rang me up to tell me their marks and that both had reached the benchmarks they needed to get into their desired university courses.”

Moree Secondary College teacher Peter Lyons.

There’s no doubt scores of students have benefited from Mr Lyons’ unwavering dedication, and it seems Moree as a community can also be grateful that this extensive globetrotter set his sights our way.

A passionate member of the Moree Services Senior Soccer Club, Mr Lyons serves as secretary and, occasionally, captain and enthuses that it has been a great opportunity to meet people and stay fit.

Teaching staff from all the local schools also have a futsal team, with competitions held at the local PCYC.

“On occasion this also allows us to get one back at a couple of our senior students,” he laughs.

“But it’s all in good fun and is a great competition.”

With his wife Vicky a proud member of the Moree Lions Club – this year serving as president – Mr Lyons always ensures his availability to serve and help out ‘this great community group’.

Moree is a long way from his English homeland, and since immigrating to Australia in 1992 Mr Lyons has lived in vast range of communities, including Hobart, Newcastle, Armidale, Auckland, Inverell and London.

And while admitting our north-west summers are proving a stubborn adjustment, he’s forever grateful his path led to Moree.

Having spent time working (in) temporary and casual (positions) in Armidale and Guyra prior to his first full year at Inverell High School, Mr Lyons declined a full-time offer in Inverell, preferring Moree.

“An advertised science position in Moree caught my fancy. Geographically it was in the region I liked and the job was the exact faculty area I aspired to teach,” he said.

Mr Lyons is now in his fifth year teaching at MSC, his seventh as a fully-fledged teacher.

However, his future may have looked very different had he pursued his original career path –pathology.

“Originally I finished university and worked in pathology doing blood and other bodily fluid testing,” he said.

“While it paid well, I found myself doing 12 hours shifts in a room full of machines and the only human contact I got was when I had to go and take blood or collect less sanitary samples.

“I enjoyed the work but the lack of human contact drove me insane.”

Describing himself as able to ‘talk the ear off a dog’, Mr Lyons knew a change was necessary.

Consulting a number of lecturer-mentors for advice, they all suggested a teaching career.

“I enrolled two weeks late on deadline day to go back to UNE to undertake my Masters in Education and originally didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but after my first practical experience at Nambucca Head High School, I knew it was the job for me,” he said.

“I’ve not looked back since, and have loved every moment of my teaching career.”

Mr Lyons is a chemistry, biology, science and agriculture teacher at MSC, and, as a science teacher in an ever-changing world, prides himself on ensuring he includes ‘the latest and greatest innovations in my teaching and learning’.

“When you see news about live cattle exports or new prosthetic organs it’s a real privilege to take this knowledge, do some research and construct a PowerPoint that you will then get to deliver to students,” he said.

“It’s always great seeing their interest spike and prompting them to ask more and more questions around the topic and curiosity towards issues that a relevant in today’s society.”

Intimate class sizes are also a huge advantage teaching at MSC.

“I have teaching friends all over the state and some have classes of 32 students,” Mr Lyons said.

“I have approximately half that number in an average class, which allows me to move around a room and give students’ individual time every single lesson.”

“I am also a big fan of the extra-curricular activities we are able to offer to students, and I always ensure I push homework club and Science Club.”

Mr Lyon’s advice to his students is to remember that the HSC is a marathon, not a sprint.

“It’s a test of knowledge and understanding from both the preliminary and the Year 12 course – work you did 18 months ago is still relevant,” he said.

“I always teach the palm card study method, whereby students write a “dot point” or topic area on the front and the knowledge on the back,” he explains.

“A good palm card is something that mum, dad, brother, sister or friend can pick up and ask you what’s on the front with the student then being able to recall all the knowledge on the back.”

He also encouraged students to take opportunities offered to them, and to experience the different career paths available.

“Excursions offered, such as UNE Careers Expo gives such invaluable insight,” he said.

“As a Year 12 student you would be shooting yourself in the foot if you didn’t have at least one chat with Careers Advisors Sheree Cayirylys and Helan Klan about how to get some exposure to a possible career.

“There’s a world of opportunity out there, and MSC is as good a place as any to embrace it (and) I’m so proud of the huge effort all the staff and students go to in reaching these capabilities,” he said.

Words: Georgina Poole