Tuesday 24th May 2022

My Retirement Medal Presentation from N.S.W. Department of Education. 2018.132.

My Retirement Medal Presentation from N.S.W. Department of Education. 2018.132.

This day, which was only last week, was a long time coming. And yet, I did not ever expect it to happen as like so many things in life when they do not quite work out as they might, we move on. Reluctantly and with some sadness at the time but we move on.

I did. At least I thought I had until one very interesting twitter thread back in October 2018 between me, my principal friend from Merrylands East P.S. John Goh and the Deputy Secretary, School Operations and Performance, N.S.W. Department of Education Murat Dizdar. Essentially I responded to a tweet from John who said he had not realised the message on a retirement medal is “Service to Students” and I tweeted back to him and Murat that “yes it says that on mine, but it’s a pity it has the wrong date”. In an instant…twitter is like that, Murat tweeted, email me Denyse and “we’ll fix it”.

Oh MY!

But first….

It started much before that and if you have read my post here in early September and then here, here and here about having to let go of my role as a principal due to ill-health in 2003 then you will know more. I will add, that through the kindness of the school where I did resume classroom teaching from 2004 until the beginning of 2010 I did re-receive my original retirement medal (dated incorrectly)  at a staff morning tea.

This year as readers (and I) know cancer and recovery has taken my time. I decided to also let N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation know I would not continue my membership and they wrote a kind letter. Since I was not able to attend NSW Retired Primary Principals’ events I opted out of paid membership. It felt like letting go of a very special part of me but I am practical and thought…life moves on.

There was always something MISSING. I could feel it but would dismiss it and then, on Wednesday 12th December 2018 I got what it was! Not as much the medal, although wonderful of course in its correct form, but the validation, appreciation and understanding from current education personnel:

  • this man in my photo, Murat who holds the second most senior role in the ‘Department’ and who CARED enough about my career ending not as well as it might have…to ensure that I had a special morning.


  • the morning tea was held at the new headquarters of N.S.W. Department of Education in Parramatta after the original building and place I knew well as 33 Bridge Street was closing to become a hotel.
  • I was initially asked to come alone, and regret in many ways not asking for my husband to attend but I got caught up in other matters and did not do so, sadly
  • our daughter, a teacher-librarian and teacher with the same employer for over 18 years got leave for the morning to come and watch her Mum and she made a little video to bring home
  • the speech was casual but hit the spot. It was amazing to listen to the list of schools and know I had taught and lead in them for almost 40 years
  • in fact my day of starting teaching, not on the new medal was, 27.01.1970 and my date of retirement was 26.01.2010. ONE day short of 40 years!
  • but wait, there is more, back in the days of my career starting, everything was managed manually in terms of leave, starting at a new school and applications for new roles, so a request for my documents from the archives at Kingswood was lodged I have a copy
  • to see, on this some of the story of my career before more sophisticated record-keeping came in was so nostalgic

  • to have around 20 people attend my morning tea from the Department who were so respectful and congratulatory in our conversations was such a bright part of my day

This is a copy of Murat Dizdar’s speech for which I am very grateful.

Welcome to Country: we meet on the homelands of the Darug people…


Let me introduce, Denyse Whelan, and her daughter Katie… Welcome to Parramatta!

Denyse is a lifelong learner and educator and also a prolific blogger and technical expert across all social media platforms.

Now retired, Denyse started her long career in 1970 and was a K-6 teacher, deputy principal, school principal, university tutor, and ESL teacher of children and adults.

Denyse managed and led two schools in low-socio economic areas of western Sydney as relieving principal. When appointed as principal she led a large school with mainstream students, a special education support unit, 2 ‘opportunity classes’ (GAT) and an Autism Spectrum Satellite Class.

Denyse has given more than four decades of educational leadership to staff and students of NSW and is a staunch advocate of public education. Her range of expertise was developed across the state in many schools…

  • Barraba Infants – Rural North
  • Fairfax Public School – Rural North
  • Hillston Infants School – Rural South and West
  • Weilmoringle Public School – Rural North
  • Cherrybrook Infants – Metropolitan North
  • Jasper Road Public School – Metropolitan North
  • Walters Road Infants School – Metropolitan North
  • Seven Hills West Infants School – Metropolitan North
  • Shalvey Public School – Metropolitan North – Deputy Principal
  • Rooty Hill Public School – Metropolitan North – Principal
  • Richmond Public School – Regional North – Principal
  • Hebersham Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Kellyville Ridge Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Lalor Park Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)
  • Hassall Grove Public School – Metropolitan North – classroom teacher (casual/temp)

Last year in May 2017 Denyse was diagnosed with cancer in her mouth. After a considerable number of surgeries and invasive treatments, Denyse now has a reason to smile. We are honoured to have Denyse with us today to acknowledge her service to the students of NSW.

With reference to Denyse’s Instagram hashtag she is indeed, a “# teacher 4 ever” and it is a privilege for us to be able to acknowledge her long and successful career.

I have great pleasure to award you with this medal on behalf of all employees of the Department of Education, and the families and communities of our great public schools.

Our daughter, Katie, to the left of me.

  • It was lovely to get to know people I knew from twitter and they were telling me how much my continued support of N.S.W. Public Education and Schools means to them. Wow. Sometimes we do not know we make a difference.


  • I can tell, from what I experienced, that there has been a shift. One of great personal connections with us all and in a tweet later on the evening of this day, Murat tweeted

    “@DenyseWhelan1 you will always be a member of our  education family”.

  • This, in particular, changed so much of my years of thinking I was no longer relevant nor my service as an educator was appreciated. In fact, Murat quoted me in a tweet: “I feel so valued” and that is true.

Now, I have officially been recognised, thanked and received my retirement medal that is it. Right? No, wrong.

I am now keener than ever to contribute, support, engage and tell my education stories if they help. In fact, I have been invited back to a Teach Meet here in March 2019! I thought I was done with Teach Meets after my last appearance but it seems, as I have in my Instagram Profile: #teacher4ever

I have re-joined my retired colleagues in N.S.W. Retired Primary Principals’ group and may now be able to attend functions now the cancer treatments are fewer. How good that will be. I realised yesterday how much I miss education-chats. I wore my Primary Principals’ pin from my years as a principal on the day and also my N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation one given in recognition of service.

After thanking Murat Dizdar, whose own education story can be found here, this came in response:

I am so pleased that we were rightfully able to recognise your contribution to Public Education with a morning tea in the presence of your daughter at our Parramatta office.

Now I am taking back my rightful place as a K-6 Retired Principal – N.S.W. Public Schools.

Amazing what a difference this has made for me.

Do you have  memories of your days at school as a student, parent, teacher or leader to share?


Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love link up and Leanne and friends here for Lovin’Life linky.







  1. Great story Denyse. You certainly played an important role in education. I’m enjoying your life stories.

  2. Hi Denyse,
    Like you I retired as a Principal in 2014 from DET. I received my retirement medal at a celebration with my staff and friends. I also joined the Retired Principals’ group. However, my love of travel has resulted in me returning as a temp/casual teacher at Matthew Pearce Public School where I have worked for the past 3 years.It is lovely being back at one of my old schools where I was Deputy Principal and Relieving Principal for a couple of years. Enjoy your real retirement….Anne

    • Hi Anne,
      Thank you for coming over and commenting. Great to hear from a colleague!

      I have returned to the Retired Principals’ Group as I said and hope, now I am less cancer-treatment focussed to actually attend a meeting.

      I spent some time as a casual and temp teacher from 2004-2009 and it was great but other work took its place. I liked working in schools as a UWS (as it was then) prac supervisor and teaching Masters Students.

      Good on you being back in schools. I remember Matthew Pearce being built as I was on Staff at Jasper Road in those days!!

      Many stories to share, from the old Met West Days I think.

      Denyse x

  3. Recognition matters a lot. I’m so glad you’re connecting with the people and topics that you are clearly passionate about.

    • Thank you so much Vanessa. It is important to me but I had let it ‘lie’ so to speak and when this was made to happen it really did change for me and allow me to be proud of my career more than I had been able to express.

      Denyse x

  4. Congratulations, Denyse. On your achievements in education and now in your ongoing role as a patient spokesperson / representative.

    I think it’s wonderful that those in The Department were able to acknowledge an error and were able to rectify it for you.

    SSG xxx

    • Thanks so much SSG. It sure has meant a lot and it is interesting that without ‘closure or proper recognition/acknowledgement’ then things feel a bit messy.

      It has given me back much more than I realised.

      Thanks for the kind words about the new patient Ambassador role too.

      Denyse x

  5. Huge congrats Denyse, well deserved indeed. I’m so glad it worked out for you and now you are happier with this aspect of your career. Well done!

    • Thanks so much Debbie. Yes it all feels much better and the acknowledgement was what I needed even if I did not realise it till now.

      Denyse x

  6. Denyse!!! This is such s great story! I am so happy for you as this honor is so well-deserved!
    I am so glad it all sofked out for you!❤️

    • Thank you my friend. The power of twitter should not be underestimated in this case.

      Yes it has made me feel the career finished in such a good way and continue to spread the good news for education.

      Denyse x

  7. ^worked out for you (oh these small keyboards!)

  8. That is so wonderful and well-deserved.What a huge year this has been for you. Congratulations!

    • Thank you so much. Yes, it has been huge but this event was one ai never saw happening! Thanks to social media it did. Really pleased to have “finished” my career like this now.

      Denyse x

  9. Oh that’s fantastic Denyse! You’ve done so much for education and you continue to give in so many ways! I do think once a teacher, always a teacher. I’m sure there are several people out there whose lives you’ve changed when they were younger.

    • Thank you! It came as a bolt out of the blue that this man was kind enough to make it happen. Put to rest some of the years where I was feeling less than wonderful about the way I “had” to leave my principal role. Your kind words are much appreciated!

      Denyse x

  10. Congratulations! You can be very proud of all of your years of service to children and all of the ways you have helped our next generations. I’m glad you were able to be recognized for all of your work.

    • Thank you so much Michele, it is something to remember…all those kids and teachers over the years!!

      It is indeed good to be thanked in this way by my former employer.

      Denyse x

  11. What a wonderful (and well deserved) outcome Denyse. I can tell from your post how much it all meant to you – that genuine desire they had to recognize and honour your commitment to education. To fix something that wasn’t done properly the first time, and to take away the bitter dregs and replace them with happy memories – just fantastic!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL – I’ve shared your post on my SM – Merry Christmas! 🙂

    • You nailed it. I am now down from the ‘high’ of last week but it sure was savoured. All we humans need is adequate and appropriate recognition and this happened.

      Thank you for your generous words and it means a lot to share my story with those who have not known me in my teaching profession.

      Denyse x

  12. So well deserved!! Love this xoxo

  13. A lovely story Denyse and I’m sure they were sorry to see you go. It is good to be honoured and appreciated and I’m always warmed by your lovely smile. Thank you for being part of #MLSTL this year and I look forward to you joining us next year. Merry Christmas and I hope 2019 brings health and happiness for you. xx

    • It was a very kind act I thought and that, in essence is due to the greater accessibility via social media in many ways.

      I did not know how much it meant to me, after 16 years, for this recognition to be given properly.

      Thanks so much for your kind words.

      Denyse x

  14. A fabulous outcome – and even better that it closed the loop for you in one way, but also opened up future interaction in another.

    • Yes it did and has been almost a ‘welcoming back’ at the same time. Very pleasing outcome even when I had not realised for a while how much I had missed not getting a farewell like this.

      Thank you!

      Denyse x

  15. Denyse, I commented earlier and then received a phone call. Came back and the comment doesn’t appear. So I’m not sure if it sent properly or if it’s gone to your spam folder … but I’ll comment again in case it never got to you. Feel free to delete one of them if you’ve received two! Anyway – I think this is fabulous and I’m so happy for you! The recognition is much deserved and it now completes the circle in a more positive way than before and you can be proud and happy and enjoy being part of the N.S.W. Retired Primary Principals’ group and enjoy attending functions and indulging in your passion of education. So pleased for you Denyse! 🙂 xo #TeamLovinLife

    • Your comment is here. Thank you so very much for how you know what this means for me. I had probably pushed the memories and so on aside after all these years and then this. Out of social media (a good news story!) and my correctly dated medal is presented to me in front of former colleagues including my daughter. I will always regret not asking if my husband could come but it seems I was a bit oblivious to his wish at the time. It is and has been a great way end the working life and begin the as part of professional retired life. Thanks for understanding the big deal this was!!

      Denyse x