OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TEACHING
72-YEAR-OLD TEACHER IS BEDROCK OF TOWNSVILLE SPORTING COMMUNITY
A 72-year-old Townsville Health and Physical Education (HPE) teacher who led the way for Catholic schoolboys to be included in representative sport in North Queensland has been named a finalist in prestigious state teaching awards.
Since John Alloway’s appointment as Head of Sport at Ignatius Park College in 1978, there has been only a handful of times the school has not held the Melton Black Shield for Excellence in Townsville Boys Sport. Part of their success can be attributed to Mr Alloway’s part-time work with the North Queensland Cowboys over 20 years, including a year where he took long service leave to be their Head Strengthening and Conditioning Coach.
“They were the only professional mob at that stage [in Townsville]. So, anything that was new [in sport] I was straight onto it and then I could bring it back to school,” Mr Alloway said.
Mr Alloway is driven to foster complete young men, rather than just great athletes. He instils in students to have a go and they have taken up the mindset.
“We’ve had some kids in the swimming pool every year and their goal isn’t to win any particular race, their goal is to get to the end of the pool and the whole school would just be going, ‘Go! Go! Go! Go!’ and when [one of these children] jumps out of the water, you’d think he’s won a gold medal,” Alloway says.
The HPE teacher, who is a finalist for this year’s Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Award, is passionate about sport and the way it can bring communities together. When he began teaching at Ignatius Park, he sought to have his sector represented in sport. At the time, Catholic students competed at the Townsville level but did not represent Townsville in Queensland secondary school competitions. Mr Alloway lobbied hard and a decision was made to have Catholic students enter the Townsville trials. This soon led to them competing at all levels of competition.
Mr Alloway did not grow up with plans to be a teacher; after school he worked in a range of odd jobs. The time he was asked, due to someone else’s mistake, to fill in a hole he had spent all day digging in the hot sun was the moment he decided he wanted to pursue more opportunities for himself. He enrolled in night school, where a teacher inspired him with a different approach to education from his schooling days and he went on to study education at university.
These experiences have informed him that the little things can make a big difference. Mr Alloway will notice a student sitting alone during lunch breaks and gently enquire how they are going.
“You sit beside him, have a yarn. If he spills the beans and tells you why he’s a bit lonely − it’s okay. If he doesn’t, nothing’s lost, he just talks and that’s okay. So, you do those kinds of things – just keep your eyes open all the time,” the educator explained.
Little moments also illustrate why the long-serving teacher continues to work.
“A kid will come up and shake your hand and say, ‘Thanks for the year, Sir’ and that puts a smile on your face,” Mr Alloway said.
Mr Alloway remains a bedrock of the community at ‘Iggy Park’, in Townsville and in North Queensland sport. At school alumni gatherings he seemingly knows everyone, and they all have stories about the difference he made in their lives.
The winners of the TEACHX Awards will be announced on 29 October, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day in Australia.