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    FAREWELL: Coleen Bouts has retired after more than 30 years at Dimboola Primary School and plans to spend her retirement delving into her artistic talents. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Long career draws to a close for Coleen Bouts

By Bronwyn Hastings

Dimboola Primary School’s Coleen Bouts has retired from her career in education support – one that has spanned generations.

Mrs Bouts happened into the role by chance, after leaving Adelaide and a career in screen-printing to move back to Dimboola, where she was raised.

“A friend of mine, Shirl King, said I should go into integration work, which was new at that stage,” Mrs Bouts said. 

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“I’ve worked at Dimboola Primary School for most of the 30 years, apart from time at the town’s Lutheran school for a couple of years, and about six to eight months at the high school.”

Mrs Bouts said it had been a challenging, yet rewarding, career.

“I have enjoyed seeing all the children excel, and ultimately see what they’re doing when they leave school, I’m always interested,” she said.

“It does take me by surprise though, when I run into past students out and about. One day I was looking at this really tall person, then it hit me – who he was and how old he is now.”

Mrs Bouts said it was wonderful to see growth in children who initially struggled in the classroom environment. 

“Seeing the kids who are reluctant to join in, or who don’t speak, it’s a big goal ticked off when they become comfortable enough to speak and interact with other children,” she said.

“Traditional school is not for everybody. It’s about helping each child learn in their own way.”

When Mrs Bouts started in her role some 35 years ago, she worked as an integration aide with a student who was assigned to her. 

The role changed into one of general education support, working with multiple children who need help at different times or working with small groups, which assists students and teachers in the classroom.

Aside from classroom work, Mrs Bouts’ artistic talents have been utilised in a variety of projects across the school. 

“I sometimes look around the school at all the different projects we’ve done over the years, like murals and Moona Lisa the cow that we entered into a dairy competition, it’s all the fun things,” she said.

During her few decades at the school, Mrs Bouts saw children of the children she worked with.

“It’s quite funny, some of the parents – being past students - still call me Mrs Bouts,” she said.

“Sometimes a child will come in and say, ‘dad said you were here when he was at school’, and I’ll say things like, ‘I always got your dad out of trouble’, or ‘your mum was a bit of a ratbag’, it’s fun – a real buzz.”

Mrs Bouts was instrumental, along with Mrs King, in starting minkey – mini hockey.

“I used to gather up all the kids who didn’t play footy or anything, and train for lightning premierships and our Saturday competition,” Mrs Bouts said.

The skills learnt in minkey resulted in some fierce competition in the junior and adult hockey competitions at Dimboola for several years, as those children filtered through.

Mrs Bouts, still a passionate artist, has plans for her retirement.

“I’m looking to get more into my artwork, and travel with my partner. I want to get into the town committee, and give to all those sorts of things I didn’t have time for before,” she said.

But after close to 35 years – or 140 school terms – of early mornings and structured days, a relaxed retirement doesn’t yet seem like a reality.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Mrs Bouts said.

The entire June 5, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!