A tribute to Vera
This week, we hosted the Rozkin family, past and current students, staff and community members in a truly moving memorial for our beloved teacher, Vera Rozkin, who passed away earlier this year.
I would like to share with you the words that I delivered on both my and past principal Michele Bernshaw’s behalf.
Vera Rozkin was that teacher. The one that we can visualise when we think back to our schooling. The one whose voice, words and advice are etched in our brains for life. You know, that teacher.
The one whose sense of humour becomes a thing of legend. The one whose lessons will be called upon to self-correct behaviour that she wouldn’t have approved of. That teacher.
She is the one who will cause a smile to break out on our face when we hear a phrase, a line of French or an accent and remember her.
For so many of her students Vera was that teacher. When long in the future our students are asked to think about a teacher that inspired them, it will be her. She will be the teacher that students will share stories about at 20 year reunions. The one whose accent they will mimic as they curse one-another in Yiddish. That teacher.
She was that teacher that offered whole-hearted love, along with exacting standards and a fundamental belief that each of her students could reach the stars.
Vera was a Tiger Teacher before Tiger Parents existed. She pushed the students to be their absolute best. Sometimes they did not like what she had to say but they always loved her for saying it.
Vera’s commitment to her students was second to none. You know, that teacher. The teacher who when approaching the last weeks of her life, tried to defy her doctor’s orders as she wished to drag herself to school so that she could support her students to prepare for their VCE oral examinations.
For her colleagues, Vera will also be that teacher. For some, she was that brilliant friend. For others, she was someone who could be relied upon for expert fashion advice. She was generous with the Do’s and even more so with the Do Nots!
More importantly, she was that teacher that offered genuine care and interest to all of us.
She was also such a strong role model as an exceptional educator. She truly embodied that teacher who thought of her students’ needs ahead of all else. For Vera being a teacher was not a vocation, it was fundamental to her identity.
For me as Principal, Vera could also be that teacher. You know, that teacher. We never ever clashed – she never did with any of her colleagues, but I can’t say she always made my life easy.
She was in some ways a teacher from another era. She was that teacher that incited a modicum of fear in her younger students. On occasion, more than a modicum. But always, always, this would metamorphose over time into respect and then ultimately into love.
But this meant that sometimes I would have to try to intervene to help translate messages of discipline, accountability and brutal truth, to students and parents who had been trained to expect flexibility and educational euphemisms which softened the impact of the feedback.
That teacher. The one who when we sat down to talk about it, would always say – ‘I’ll do anything. I want them to be happy… But you know, they could be so brilliant if they just work hard.’
Vera was so special. She was the teacher that we all wish we could be.
That teacher who was so beloved. Her endearing eccentricities, her wit, her ethics, her accent.
We all miss her greatly and are so deeply privileged to have had an opportunity to work and learn with that teacher.