PRECIOUS MEMORIES: Nataylia Ansey, Helen James and Ally Usher at Allenstown State School.
PRECIOUS MEMORIES: Nataylia Ansey, Helen James and Ally Usher at Allenstown State School. Contributed

Students honour CQ teachers' special connection to school

WELCOME to 'Our Priceless Past'. This is an annual feature in The Morning Bulletin where local school students meet with our senior citizens and write about their history for the community. We will be publishing these stories throughout the next week. This is one of the stories written by CQ school students in 'Our Priceless Past' series.

HELEN James was born in Rockhampton QLD in 1949. Growing up she attended Allenstown State School and lived in a house nearby with her three siblings and parents. She recalls happily growing up in a street full of kids. They enjoyed bike riding, building cubbies and growing vegetables in the garden.

Helen fondly remembers her school years at Allies. Lunchtimes were an opportunity to play games like countries and beamy with her friends. Parade was held in an open area where students then marched into school in lines. In the classroom, students sat six to a desk (they were like long tables then) and there was a lot less interaction between the teacher and students than there is today.

While there were too many wonderful teachers to name them all, Helen recalls how she had Ms Messar's in Year One (the first year of schooling) and then in Year Eight (the final year of primary school) Ms Messar's brother Mr Messar.

The Allenstown State school uniform has changed over time. When Helen attended the school, boys wore khaki shorts and shirt (before Steve Irwin made this look famous.) Girls wore a box pleated blue dress with belt. Today, girls wear a polo shirt and choose either a skirt, skorts or shorts. Helen thinks this change is practical so girls today can participate freely in activities at school.

Mrs James first opportunity to teach at Allenstown State School was through the R.E program. In 1969, Helen was then offered a teaching position on Year Fours for a year. After moving around Central Queensland, she came back and taught grades five, six and seven at her beloved Allenstown School. This also gave her the opportunity to coach the school netball, softball and tee ball teams.

Allenstown State School has long had a proud sporting history. Helen recalls that not only did they have a netball and football team but the school was involved in a lifesaving competition. Allies had some very talented swimmers who went on to represent Queensland and Australia.

In all her years of teaching, Helen's favourite year to teach was Year Seven. Helen remarks that this is because she could have a proper conversation with the students. They were more mature than younger students and could see how important school was for their future.

One time Helen, and a colleague played a cool prank on their Year Seven students. They told them that their school camp was cancelled for the year. The students were so upset and complained so much to all the other teachers that they had to be told quickly that it was just a prank after all.

Mrs James has been bestowed with the privilege of having the Performing Arts Hall at Allenstown named after her. In 2013, Helen finished working full time at Allenstown state school but continued working part-time for another two years. Today, Helen is still a regular visitor helping with school banking and attending special events.

Helen James has been and continues to be a special part of our school. It has been a privilege to interview Mrs James and learn more about her and our school. Helen's advice to students today is "Just do your best! Find what you love and pursue it”.

- Interview conducted by Ally Usher and Nataylia Ansey at Allenstown State School