Teacher a hard act to follow

Year 13 drama  pupils at Logan Park High School in Dunedin bid farewell to teacher Denise Walsh (back row, fifth from left). The pupils are (back row, from left) Maya Barrett, Orion Carey-Clark, Katrina Lamont, Jordan Dickson, George Wallace, Sophie Acklin, (front row, from left)  Perry Goldsmith, Olivia Scott, Marlina Lobitz, Bene Stewart and  Dom Harrison.
Year 13 drama pupils at Logan Park High School in Dunedin bid farewell to teacher Denise Walsh (back row, fifth from left). The pupils are (back row, from left) Maya Barrett, Orion Carey-Clark, Katrina Lamont, Jordan Dickson, George Wallace, Sophie Acklin, (front row, from left) Perry Goldsmith, Olivia Scott, Marlina Lobitz, Bene Stewart and Dom Harrison.

I don't know many people who have the dedication and commitment to stick at one job for 45 years, let alone one where you spend your days surrounded by groups of, at times, "challenging" teenagers, doing too much work for not enough pay.

However, the brilliantly talented Denise Walsh is one who has had the drive to accomplish such a feat.

Originally a teacher at King Edward Technical College, she moved to Logan Park where she left shorthand and typing behind to embark on what would turn into a glittering career as a drama teacher.

Other Logan Park senior staff members have described her style as "radical" for its time.

She has always tried to find roles for her pupils that are appropriate for their age.

However, finding plays about 13 to 18-year-olds, which they could relate to turned out to be harder than you'd think.

So being the great improviser she is, Denise turned her hand to playwriting. Now her award-winning youth-orientated plays are performed throughout the country, and a large group of privileged Logan Park pupils has had the honour of performing the premiere performances of these. I am lucky enough to count myself as one of that group.

But just putting on a production for parents of your pupils isn't enough for this teacher, oh no; she has travelled the country and the world showing how talented her kids are.

Germany, Japan, America, Westport and Invercargill are just a few of the places that have been privy to performances that, under her skilled direction, let pupils tell stories that relate to them.

And apparently other people thought the plays were quite good, too. She literally has enough awards to cover a wall of her classroom, both for her writing skills and that of the actors who brought them to life.

Sadly Mrs Walsh will be leaving Logan Park at the end of this year. And while she reassures us her replacement is world class, we'll miss her.

I think myself lucky to have been able to experience three years with her, growing both as an actor and as a person.

But it's not the awards or acclaim I will remember about my time with Ms Walsh, it's the genuine concern and care she has for her students that will leave its mark on me.

It takes a special sort of person, more than just a teacher, to refer to a group of teenagers as her family, and have them believe that.

But that's really what our senior drama class has been; a family.

We have the odd fight or bicker a bit, but at the end of the day we've got our matriarch at the helm helping to pull everyone together in every way.

I know I speak on behalf of all your family, past and present, when I say that we, with the greatest sincerity and appreciation, thank you for all the work you've done for us.

The weekend and holiday practices, the long trips, the trying times.

I feel proud and honoured to have been part of your family, as we all do. Ms Walsh, you are drama and drama is you, and I like drama. I like it quite a lot.

 


• By Jordan Dickson, Year 13, Logan Park High School