Lynn Bedwell’s crazy characters, catchy songs and extreme dedication to children’s education has been a staple at Stanwell Park Public School for almost four decades, with generations of her own and other families experiencing the magic of her classroom. But even though Lynn’s fun and fantastical lessons are coming to an end as she begins her well-earned retirement, her legacy and love for children are still shining bright.
At 74 years old, the word retirement has been on Lynn’s lips for a long time, but she always found herself being pulled back to her passion for teaching.
“I first said it 10 years ago and have been working at it ever since my last nephew left sixth class,” she said. “I went ‘When he leaves, I’ll finish then’, and every year I’ve said the same.”
“Every time I got to the end of the year I’d have the holidays and want to come back again.”
It’s a tough habit to break after spending 53 years in the public education system but it was a career choice that Lynn never doubted for a minute.
“I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a baby,” she said. “I played school all my life and there wasn’t ever a question that I wasn’t going to be a teacher.”
Some 39 of those years were spent at Stanwell Park Public School, which has held a special place in her heart, with generations of students passing through her doors.
“It’s special, Stanwell Park is special,” she said.
“All my kids went here, I’ve got three grandkids still here now and teaching kids of kids, which is fabulous because they come up and say ‘My mum said she had you’, it’s just lovely, lovely, lovely.”
Her daughter Melissa said having their mum at school was just part of the normal everyday for their family, and has become a highlight for her own children who attend the school.
“They love it on days that mum was working they would go ‘Yes – Mrs Bedwell’s working today’ and I’m like it’s your grandma and you see her every other day anyway!”
But despite her dedication to the school, Lynn also put everything into being a parent, from sewing sequins onto dance costumes to attending sporting games and cooking for extra visitors and even youth groups.
“She was 100 per cent school but she was 100 per cent mum,” Melissa said. “I don’t know how she did it, it still baffles me.”
Her retirement was such a significant moment that all five of her children made the trip back, even travelling from interstate and across the world.
“I live in London and have for the last 20-odd years to come and it wasn’t really on the plan to come but I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Lynn’s son Nathan said.
“It’s a beautiful moment and for us to get together as a family is something very special too.”
Her family joined the chorus of speeches with admiration and appreciation for everything from her colourful costumes at sports carnivals, quirky songs and expressive storytelling, to her commitment to showing up even in the toughest times.
“So much so that when she was having treatment for cancer she would have her chemotherapy on Friday afternoon, be sick all weekend and go back to school on Monday,” Melissa told the crowd of current and ex-students, colleagues and friends.
“She would also have radiotherapy every afternoon after school for six weeks, and you know why she did that? So she didn’t miss a day with her students.”
Along with songs and chants (which of course Lynn had to join in on), she was showered with meaningful gifts, cards and cakes, and even received a service medal from the NSW Department of Education.
“I think she deserves two medals for what she’s done, she’s gone over and above,” former colleague Margaret Bradley said.
“She’s vivacious – she puts everything into the lessons that she develops and she got to know the children as people and she wanted to help those kids along their pathway.”
But although Lynn is no longer working at the school, she is bound to still be surrounded by kids, with 13 grandchildren set to make the most of her incredible skill set.
“This has been the journey of a lifetime and it’s not over, she’s just retired, and her love of what she does as an educator will carry on,” Nathan said.
And while after half a century of teaching she has more than deserved a well-earned break, for Lynn, it was all worth it.
“There would not be a day that I didn’t want to come to work, that’s magic isn’t it,” she said.
“I’m just blessed that so many people care, it’s my life and I’ve loved it, I couldn’t wish for anything better.”