Inspirational Cathedral College teacher bids fond farewell
AFTER decades influencing generations of young people in the classroom and on the football field, Steve Parle will retire next Friday with only one regret.
"I will miss the students," Steve said.
"I have been very lucky that after 38 years I still enjoy being with young people."
Steve, with his wife Regina, will move to Brisbane to spend more time with family, especially grandchildren, and will be involved with developing younger players for Steve's beloved Broncos Rugby League Club.
Steve started teaching at St Joseph's Christian Brothers' College (CBC) in 1977 on the site where The Cathedral College now stands, after graduating from the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education with a Diploma of Teaching.
He was a foundation staff member of The Cathedral College when it opened in 1991 and was instrumental in its formation. He will step down as the Assistant Principal: Students, a role he has held since 1994, responsible for the pastoral care of students.
Diocesan director of Catholic Education Leesa Jeffcoat, in her address at the recent college academic awards night, gave an insight into Steve as a teacher when she was appointed principal in 1996.
"Steve treated every student the same and in all his dealings with them they were treated with fairness and with their best interests always uppermost in mind," she said.
"He never pre-judged students and he was always prepared to give them not only just a second chance but also a third and fourth chance. In return the students would do anything for Mr Parle."
Known affectionately as "Parlie", it strikes him as a job well done when past students greet him as Mr Parle.
"Respect is the one lesson I hope I have passed on to my students," he said.
"I have a great sense of achievement when I run into kids I taught 35 years ago, now grown men, and they call me Mr Parle. The respect is still there after all these years although it is a little embarrassing.
"They often remind me of a time when I chased PE gear up for them so they wouldn't miss out. Little things that were the big things for them at the time obviously made an impression."
Steve's first taste of teaching was coaching the 1972 Brothers Rugby League Club under-13 team. They won the premiership that year and were victorious for the following four years. This team and the St Anthony's Primary School team he coached on Friday afternoons as a 17-year-old ultimately directed Steve towards teaching, a vocation he remained loyal to for 38 years.
Steve was employed by St Joseph's CBC principal, Brother Grenier, who dined every Sunday with the Brothers from CBC at the Brothers Rugby League Club where Steve worked to put himself through study.
St Joseph's was an all boys school from Years 5 to 12 and the new, young, athletic teacher attired in dress shorts and white, knee-high socks caught the attention of all students.
Majoring in physical education, Steve introduced the newly developed subject to the school and he very soon became popular with the students.
By this time he had been coaching for a few years and already knew many of the students from his premiership-winning team, including Pat O'Driscoll, Gerard Hoolihan, Michael Crow and Mick Hoare.
Steve also taught Paul White, CEO of Broncos, and Anthony Griffin, recently appointed head coach for Penrith.
In Steve's role as Capricornia schoolboys coach, the first players he recommended to the fledgling Broncos club were John Driscoll and Sid Domic in 1990.
Broncos contracted both of them and also employed Steve as the central Queensland recruiting officer for the club.
Over the years Steve coached the likes of Julian O'Neill, Matty Sing, PJ Marsh, Darren Mapp and more recently Ben Hunt, Tim Glasby and Corey Oates.
These were unexpected achievements for a youngster who grew up in the country town of Mildura, Victoria, more accustomed to kicking goals between four sticks, not two.
"I'd barely heard of rugby league when my family moved here in 1970 to run the Grand Hotel in Bolsover St. AFL was only just getting off the ground and wasn't very competitive. I was approached by Brothers' coach John Meehan and joined the under-15s for training.
"I could catch and kick but was no good at tackling. I learnt how in the forwards pack and stayed there for the next 11 years," he said.
For Steve, teaching and coaching are inseparable.
"Coaching kids in sport has made me a much better teacher. It is good for teachers to engage with students outside the classroom - not necessarily sport - as you build a stronger rapport, enjoy watching young people develop and it keeps you young," he said.
He has used this connection with young people to teach successive generations of students health and physical education, maths and, most consistently over the years, religion.
"My last lesson with the Year 12 religion class was very significant, as they were the last of the RE classes I have taught every year since becoming a Catholic in 1978."
Steve and Regina, who also retires from teaching in Catholic Education, raised three sons, Gerard, Ryan and Justen. Gerard is a strength and conditioning coach for Broncos, Ryan works in the music industry in Melbourne and Justen is the sports co-ordinator for Emmaus College.
"I am very fortunate to have taught for so long and despite the challenges of a changing society, I still enjoy being with young people and that is what I will miss most," he said.
Steve was recognised for his outstanding contribution to Catholic Education earlier this year when he was presented the Catholic Education Week State Award by Queensland Governor General, Paul De Jersey.
Miss Jeffcoat praised and thanked Steve and Regina for their service.
"The legacy of Steve's dedicated and loyal service to Catholic Education and to the noble profession of teaching is successive generations of students who graduated from a Steve Parle classroom as good, decent, values-based, faith-centred people with a love of their God, a love of family, a desire to help others and a passion to live life in all its fullest."