Ethnic Schools Association Award to Waltraud Parker 27 Oct 2013

The Ethnic Schools Association of SA presents awards each year to outstanding teachers from the various ethnic schools in Adelaide.    At the ESA Annual General Meeting held on 27 October 2013, our longest-serving teacher Waltraud Parker received the award for the most outstanding secondary teacher.

Her acceptance speech was a highlight of the night:

Mr.  Hieu Van Le, Lieutenant Governor of South Australia.

Mr Binh Nguyen, Chairperson of The Ethnic Schools Association.

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Waltraud Parker and I was born in 1948, just after the 2nd World War, in Lübeck, West Germany.

Lübeck is situated 60 km north of Hamburg on the Baltic Sea, and a few kilometres  west of the  Old Iron Curtain. In 1945 it was the town of hope for many German refugees  who had been displaced.

Up to then the war was very kind to the Pomeranian, East- and West Prussians.  Mum remembered, after having visited Dad’s family in Pomerania, she returned with meat, ham, Mettwurst and bread  as  much, as she could carry. When the Russians and Poles pushed westwards, all  German people had to leave their homes from one day to the next, or faced being shot.

My Father’s family was one of those who arrived with nothing in Lübeck and Grandma gave them food and  shelter. One can understand that the local people did not like the thousands of refugees as they had  to share their house with people who had nothing. 1 room per family was the quota, they shared the kitchen, if they had something to cook. Life was very tough.

 My father was POW during most of the war in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and returned a year after the war ended.  The Canadians were very keen to keep the Germans as migrants; Dad always regretted not staying  there; but Mum did not wanted to leave my widowed Grandmother alone in Lübeck.

I was born in 1948 and grew up in a heavily bombarded but otherwise pretty, Hanseatic, medieval town, surrounded by 2 rivers and 20km away from the Baltic Sea with its white beaches. Lübeck is lubice, or the lovely one in wendish, a slavic settlement.  After the turbulent years things settled down and I had a steady and normal education. 

Most refugees went to other parts of West Germany and created the economic miracle of the sixties and seventies. I passed my exams and was the first of my family to go to Teachers College in Kiel.

The day before my German Matric Exam I won the West German Rowing Championship in the single scull at the age of 18 years.  Rowing was a wonderful pastime  for us young people, as there were not so many opportunities as there are today.

Aged 21 I had my first teaching job in a 3 teacher school for  children with intellectual disabilities. It was a small pilot town, directly on the spot where the Kiel Canal meets the river Elbe. This canal connects the North Sea and Hamburg with the Baltic Sea.

 My rowing mates wanted me back and after a year I got a job in a 4 teacher primary school just outside Lübeck. Here I stayed for some years and we rowed happily.

 In 1976  the Olympic Games were held in Montreal  and I decided to train during  the European winter in Australia, where it was much warmer. I knew the Aussie rowers from the regattas in Germany and they organised a room for me in a house in Sydney. In the morning I rowed in Lane Cove and at night in Mosman and admired the beauty of the harbour. I also went to Melbourne and Adelaide.

In Adelaide I met my future husband,  whose task it was to  unlock the shed of Adelaide Rowing Club. He also showed me around Adelaide and I liked it instantly.

 After my stay in Australia I qualified for the West German Olympic Team and stroked in the women’s eight. We had a wonderful experience at the Olympics and finished 5th in the finals. Two years later my husband to be arrived in Lübeck,  we got on well and married. I was very impressed with the Australian attitude of welcoming people from different countries and their love of sport! 

My first job was with The School for the German Language  in 1978 after I met Jens Sandstroem at a street party in Unley .

Two years later I got a job at Walford teaching  PE and German. After the birth of my son I only taught German and went back to Uni to update my teaching qualifications. I worked at Walford  for 21 happy years.  I started Walford’s  Rowing Club   and it gives me great satisfaction to see the girls busy, enthusiastic, chatty and happy in the boat.

At the School  for the German Language  I have now  been for over 20 years and  always enjoyed the smiling and well behaved students and helpful parents. We teachers have our own little migrant??? support group  pleased to see each other on Saturdays .

My latest endeavour at the  School  for the  German Language  is the DSD or the German Language Diploma. I prepare my Yr.9/10 students for this exam to pass in Yr.11, at the B1 Level. The writing is a challenge for my students but in the second year they have adjusted to it and write very well structured essays.

If  my students get this diploma it gives them access to attend   German universities.

 I am pleased that the School  for the German Language which started in 1959  is still going.  Both my children attended the School and as a result I am very happy that my son & daughter can visit and communicate fluently with their cousins.

I thank The Ethnic Schools Association for rewarding my efforts.   It  came as a pleasant surprise. It is nice to be publicly thanked at the end of one’s working life. Thank you again!




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