Art teacher retires from colourful career

SHERYL Lugg has spent most of her life at Ararat College, from student to art teacher, she has called the school home.

The pride she has for the public secondary school was strong enough to deter the thought of retirement from mind, but when the difficulties of remote learning became a hindrance on her teaching, she knew it was time.

Having endured stints of remote learning in 2020, she has spent this year on leave and is now as content as she can be that her teaching days are behind her.

Mrs Lugg graduated in 1973 from the very school she would spend her career and knew she wanted to be a teacher.

“I applied to be a PE teacher, an English teacher, an Art teacher and a primary school teacher. All bases covered,” she said.

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Teaching was an obvious choice thanks to studentship offers that prevented any financial burden on her parents.

She studied for two years in Ballarat before her course was transferred to Melbourne for another two, and in the meantime, she had fallen in love with husband, Phillip.

“In my third year, we got engaged and at the end of my fourth year, we got married,” she said.

In 1978, Mrs Lugg was back at Ararat High School (now Ararat College) where – apart from a three-year stint in Stawell (1979-1981) due to excess problems – she would remain for the entirety of her career.

Ararat College principal, Ellie McDougall, said Mrs Lugg has been formally recognised by the Department of Education for 45 years of dedication to teaching.

“She has been a long standing and highly respected member of the College Art Department and I know many students, present and past, can attest to the profound influence she has had on them as a teacher dedicated to the Arts,” she said.

Mrs Lugg has helped shape a long list of creative individuals, many of whom she watched realise their artistic potential in her junior classes.

“Seeing year sevens come in and you teach them something, and they suddenly realise it isn’t just an accident that they can draw,” she said.

“They have just realised their potential and it’s like an aha moment, it’s fantastic to see that.”

One of her most successful students, now fashion designer, Megan Park, symbolises her impact.

Ms Park graduated in the Class of ’85, forever grateful for the voluntary support Mrs Lugg offered her even when on leave.

“You were the most passionate and inspiring teacher that I ever had and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’d be where I am now without you,” Ms Park said in a video message compiled for her retirement.

“You gave me the opportunity to study HSC Art when really it wouldn’t have been otherwise possible. We were a class of two and you took out your own time to teach.”

Mrs Lugg shares the same fond memory of returning “in a volunteer bases” during family leave.

“There were only two students doing Year 12. I came back and helped out with those two students, two starring students – one of them happened to be Megan Park so it was worth the effort,” she said.

The comradery between staff across faculties has been another highlight for the art teacher when helping to create Rock Eisteddfod performances and school productions.

“For a teacher, the relationship between faculties that build it together – the music, the art, the drama – and everyone gets on a high. It’s contagious. It’s magic,” she said.

“Sport days are also another highlight because every barrier is broken down, everyone’s equal and comes together to have some fun.”

The legacy Mrs Lugg leaves behind will not only be physically evident by the dozens of year 12 names painted on her classroom walls, but also through the hundreds of alumni stories.

Artist Amber Daly echoed Ms Parks sentiment of a teacher who managed to master the perfect teaching style.

“Your style of teaching is just a very calm and measured beautiful style, which I think as an artist is really important because they bring into the classroom some sensitivities and encouragement which you gave in spades,” she said in her message.

“Ararat was lucky to have you as an art teacher.”

Mrs Lugg never thought they day would come where she wouldn’t be teaching art.

“I thought I’d still be here forever but [COVID-19 and remote learning] was a pivotal moment,” she said.

While she has missed the art room and the school routine every day on leave this year, the technological struggles and fact that many of her friends have already taken the leap into retirement, meant it was a matter of time in hindsight.

Mrs Lugg will forever have a special place in her heart for Ararat College and the springboard it can be for passionate students.

“Anyone who wants to be anything can go to the school and become anything they want. It’s a matter of their passion driving them, because the school gives them all the background they need,” she said.

Mrs Lugg looks forward to continuing her love of art through the creation of miniature embroideries and spending time with her family.

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