When Steve Meus and Erica Bojko retire at the end of the 2023 school year, it will mark the end of a combined 73 years of service to Blackfriars.
Mr Meus first came to Blackfriars as a Year 7 teacher in 1986, having taught for eight years in the DECS system. He has former prime minister Gough Whitlam to thank for his long teaching career.
“I was a mature-age (teaching) student. I actually studied economics at university, but I dropped out. I wasn’t disciplined enough,” said Mr Meus, who spent his own secondary school years at Findon High School.
“And then, one day, I bumped into an old friend of mine from high school and he said, ‘You know what, Steve? There is a shortage of teachers in Australia and Gough Whitlam, the prime minister, is prepared to pay students to study to become teachers.’ So, I joined the Salisbury College of Education campus.
Over the years, Mr Meus has seen many students come through his classroom – including current Blackfriars teachers Garth Starrs, Michael Parrella and Principal David Ruggiero.
“It was a proud moment, this year and last year, to have David walk into my room during the new parent visits and to have him refer to me as ‘my Year 7 teacher’. Very special.”
In his retirement, as well as helping to look after his five young grandchildren, Mr Meus plans to revisit an earlier love – playing the guitar.
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“My uncle … used to play the mandolin and so when I got my first guitar, I used to try to imitate him,” he recalls. “Then my mum enrolled me in the music conservatorium in the city, but that didn’t work too well. It wasn’t until I fell in love with blues and rock that I actually started learning by myself. I still have a Les Paul Gold Top Deluxe Gibson … I played in bands for many, many years.”
He also hopes to have more time to repair his flood-damaged shack at Morgan.
Mr Meus finds it hard to reduce his 37 years at Blackfriars down to a few highlights – “there are just so many” – but lists the Year 6 father/son camp, Year 7 twilight sports days and, strangely enough, his inaugural primary staff meeting.
“It was held in the Library and Marcus Trimboli … it was his turn to bring the chips.
He said he was “humbled” to be promoted to Primary Religious Education Coordinator at Blackfriars and eventually move to the Middle School as a Key Year 7 teacher. The “icing on the cake” came when his daughter, Bianca, was offered permanency as the Reception teacher.
His final highlight is also very personal: “Having our son, Adrian, come to Blackfriars. I had him for Humanities. That was a real highlight.”
Just 12 months after Mr Meus started at Blackfriars, Mrs Bojko joined the Primary Library staff as a Resource Centre Aide. About six years later, she started work as the school’s Receptionist, a position she would hold for the next three decades.
Like Mr Meus, with whom she shares Ukrainian heritage, her familial links to the school run deep. Her son, Michael, was a student at Blackfriars from Year 3, and her grandsons, Lucas (Year 9) and Alex (Year 6), are current students.
“I started here on the 11th of May, 1987, the day after my son’s 7th birthday,” Mrs Bojko said.
“I just realised the other day, I have been working here half my lifetime. Exactly half my lifetime. I’ve always loved my job. Always have. When you love your job, it doesn’t seem like a job. It’s been like a home away from home.”
Her time as a Blackfriars parent meant she was well prepared for the Receptionist role.
“I know what it’s like from the family side. I felt it’s always a privilege to be there (on Reception), because I was the one who was getting the calls from the parents and I’ve been where they have been.
“I have learnt a lot about people. From day 1, I have always insisted on saying hello to people as they come in … hello, good morning, how are you? That’s important.”
When asked to share her highlights of her time at Blackfriars, Mrs Bojko was quick to respond: “Every day. Every day is a new day. No matter what you plan, stuff happens and you’ve got to go with the flow and that’s one thing I have learnt right from the very beginning.”
And how will her retirement look? “Busy! I’ve got a lot to do at home. I have to get my garden in order. I potter. I can work outside all day you can’t see a thing,” she said with a laugh. “And I will spend time with friends. I have missed out on a lot of things with my friends, because they are all retired. So I will be able to do that.”
While she will no longer to here to greet us each day, Mrs Bojko will still be part of the Blackfriars community, as “baba” (the Ukrainian word for grandmother) to Lucas and Alex. “They are wonderful boys … so, I hope to still be a part of their school life.”