Every two years, students from central Queensland stand on ANZAC Cove, and the battlefields of France, and undergo a life-changing experience. For months they have been researching soldiers who died fighting – soldiers not much older than themselves. The Mackay North State High School (MNSHS) students then fly to the battlefields to find the grave of the soldier they have researched, deliver a personal eulogy they have written, and bring home a photo of the grave for the soldier’s relatives. Many students are overcome with emotion as they stand before the grave, so very far from home. It’s an extraordinary experience which has irrevocably changed the lives of generations of MNSHS students, and provided an inlet for Mackay residents to honour loved ones who died at war.
Residents send in details of their lost relatives to be studied, or sometimes students research relatives of their own. It’s all part of the “Lest We Forget” History Project, which has been spearheaded by History teacher Michael (Mike) Goodwin, who this month received an OAM for his work.
Twenty years after it first started, Mike remains a driving force behind the project.
The 2013 QCT Excellence in Teaching Award finalist says the trips are special because they provide practical, educational, and emotional first-hand history experiences for students. “This creation of a real connection is very powerful; it takes history from the classroom to the places that events actually happened,” Mike says. “This is also significant with regard to the battlefields we visit,” he says.
“To see a young person become emotional just standing at Anzac Cove or on the battlefield of Pozières is also very powerful.”
Mike made the decision to become a teacher when he was in Year 11 and says he has always been committed to be the best teacher he possibly can.
“It revolved around a love of History and a desire to pass on all the stories of where we have come from and why the world is as it is today. I also simply had a desire to be a positive influence in young peoples’ lives,” Mike says. “I’ve been a classroom teacher for 30 years now and will retire as a classroom teacher because I love interacting with young people and being a positive influence and role model. This goes from simply being a positive male role model to teenage boys – many of whom need this type of thing – right through to passing on my passion for History,” he says.
“I love to see students engage in historical issues and debates and I aim to have my students leave my class with, at the very least, an appreciation for History and all that it entails.” The MNSHS Senior School Co-ordinator, who uses his role to influence, teach and inspire students across a variety of extra-curricular and welfare areas, said receiving the OAM was “a great honour”.
“I am very humbled to think that people would take the time to nominate me,” Mike says. “It gives me the chance though, to highlight the support of so many colleagues and their work with this project, and also to thank my beautiful wife for her ongoing support over so many years,” he says. “I do like the idea that this award has gone to a classroom teacher as it gives the opportunity to highlight the profession and the fact that classroom teachers do great things with young people across the state every day.” Congratulations Mike. You’re an incredibly worthy recipient.