Public Service Medal for school champion Peter Johnson

Blaxland resident Peter Johnson received “a wonderful surprise” in the form of a Public Service Medal for outstanding service to education in NSW.

Driven to improve public education: Blaxland's Peter Johnson is a recipient of a Public Service Medal for his work in education.

Driven to improve public education: Blaxland's Peter Johnson is a recipient of a Public Service Medal for his work in education.

“When I opened the notification letter I was practically speechless at first,” Mr Johnson said.

“I’m really proud that someone has recognised my efforts by nominating me.

“You don’t do jobs like mine to get awards, you do it because you hope to improve things.

“To get this medal is just the icing on the cake.”

Mr Johnson started his career as a kindergarten teacher at Marsden Road Public School in Liverpool in 1978 and went on to teach for almost nine years. Further tertiary studies and a natural ability to relate well to all types of people saw him take on senior leadership roles in the Department of Education and Communities’ state office.

Mr Johnson oversaw initiatives that aimed to lift the quality of teachers and he helped deliver the Local Schools Local Decisions project. More recently he served as executive director of the Department’s human resources and business services units.

He also had a five year stint as principal of Faulconbridge Public School from 1996 and filled in for a year as principal of Winmalee Public School.

“I believe a good teacher has to love teaching, love kids and get huge satisfaction in seeing kids succeed,” Mr Johnson said.

“They also need to be resilient, because teaching is a very challenging as well as a very fulfilling profession.

“I feel very fortunate to have been involved in public education for so long because I think people have a right to a good, strong public education.

“I went to public schools, my children did, my eldest son, Chris, is a teacher and my wife, Janet, was a teacher.

“In fact, we were both beginner teachers at the same school in 1978 — that’s where we met.”

Mr Johnson said a particular area of public education policy he’s made a strong contribution to and feels passionate about is boosting recruitment of teachers with an Indigenous background.

“I led a team that had the privilege of developing a framework that became a successful national program,” he said.

“In 2003 the Department was recruiting about 30 Aboriginal teachers per year, but that’s risen to about 140 per year in the last four years.

“I think having more Indigenous teachers gives Indigenous students role models.

“If they see their own people teaching and having leadership roles in schools, it could give them that extra incentive to achieve.”

Despite retiring at the end of last year, Mr Johnson will be keeping himself very busy.

He told the Gazette his plans include doing private consultancy work, joining the board of the Lower Mountains Neighbourhood Centre and becoming a volunteer community speaker for the NSW Cancer Council.

Teachers are constantly looking over the fence and once you are a teacher you are always a teacher,” he said.

“So I’ll still be doing some consultancy and some of that will be in the field of the public education system.”