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Retiring principal celebrates 39-year career

Jeff Woongarra
Woongarra State School principal Jeff Irwin is retiring after 39 years.

Woongarra State School principal Jeff Irwin is swapping out textbooks for time with family as he prepares to leave his 39-year school career for retirement.

The popular principal celebrated his last week with students and teachers alike, and said his time at Woongarra State School would be one he would greatly miss.

“I have been at Woongarra for 11 years,” he said.

“I have been blessed to work with such a great staff, many, many fine students and wonderful families over the years I have been a part of this school.

“I will take with me many fine memories of this place but mostly memories of the lives and relationships that have touched me.”

Mr Irwin's career has taken him all over Australia, beginning in 1985 at Torquay State School in Hervey Bay before moving to Cunnamulla in South West Queensland and then to Darwin.

“That was a one-teacher school with about 20 kids in it,” he said.

“It was basically a school on top of a hill, with the closest house about 20 kilometres away, in the middle of cattle properties.”

From there, Mr Irwin said he was stationed at the now closed Welcome Creek State School before opening Moore Park Beach State School in the early 2000s.

“Opening a new school was a real highlight in my career,” he said.

“Being part of the designing and the building up of the culture of the school, that was a really exciting part.”

Jeff's Woongarra memories special

Mr Irwin said he then had stints at Norville and Branyan before becoming a “Woonie” 11 years ago when he signed on to run Woongarra State School.

“A Woonie has been a term used as part of our school since the late '90s,” he said.

“To be a Woonie is to follow what we call our five Bs- to be respectful, be responsible, be positive, be tolerant and be proud.

“It is about the way we treat each other and work together.

“Being a Woonie is just what we are.”

During his 39-year career Mr Irwin said 34 of those had been spent as principal while only five as teacher, but he still loved every moment of his time in the classroom.

“Teaching is always something I have enjoyed, particularly mathematics,” he said.

“In the late '90s and 2000s I was a lecturer at CQU, which I did after school.

“I lectured in mathematics and a lot of the local teachers here are who I actually taught at the time.

“I also teach extension maths during school to the kids who are really interested in it – that's something I have loved to do.”

With plenty of time on the horizon, Mr Irwin said he was looking forward to moving to Brisbane to be closer to family.

“It is where all of our kids and grandkids are,” he said.

“Hopefully I can still do some other things.

“I would love to do some coaching and mentoring of principals just to be able to put something back into the principalship which I have been part of for over 30 years.”

Mr Chris Norris will take over the role of principal at Woongarra State School next year.

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