Great-grandmother graduates – 68 years later

August 11 / 68

An 87-year-old former teacher from Woomelang in the Mallee has graduated from the University - 68 years after she completed her education course.

Lois Symes studied at the Melbourne Teachers’ College (now the Melbourne Graduate School of Education), in the 1940s. She completed her Trained Primary Teacher’s Certificate in 1943, going straight into teaching without ever attending a graduation ceremony.

Mrs Symes remembers a very different approach to teacher education from today’s strong links between theory and practice. “In those days, you did two years as a student teacher before going to college. Because it was wartime, many of the young male teachers had been sent away. So, at the age of 16, I found myself as the only teacher in a small rural school,” she said.

Mrs Symes has fond memories of her time living and studying at the college. She said she was particularly enjoyed visiting the 1888 building, which is now used for administration.

“Living at the college was great fun, we made lifetime friendships there. I was lucky enough to have a single room – some girls had to share with two or three others. We had a matron who kept us all in line and the college principal, Mr Law, was very strict. He used to stand at the dining room door as we all filed in, and if you forgot to nod to him you had to go to the back of the queue!”

When she graduated, Lois returned to the Mallee to work  in single teacher schools at Gama East and Linga, until getting married in 1949 aged 24. 

“You weren’t allowed to teach after you were married,” Mrs Symes said.

 “But we lived on a farm, so I had plenty to keep me busy.”

Dean of Education, Professor Field Rickards, said he was delighted to support Mrs Symes’ graduation.

“I am delighted Lois is returning to graduate from the University. We have a rich teaching history here in Victoria, and it’s important we honour that wherever possible.”  

Mrs Symes has five children, fourteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her son Peter, who organised her graduation, attended her graduation ceremony along with his daughters Bianca and Chloe, brothers Colin (with partner Donna), Graeme (with partner Kaye) and Rod (with daughter Emma) and sister Glenda.


Editorial Enquiries

Got a story?

Staff are encouraged to submit stories. There are some important steps in preparing a media-ready story.  Email