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Diocese of Toowoomba Catholic Schools

Spirited Careers: Jenny loves teaching in Cunnamulla

Jenny Shellshear

When Jenny started teaching in 1983, teaching in Cunnamulla in the later part of her career was not in her plan.

The furthest west Jenny had worked prior to 2019 was Oakey. 

Having married, had three sons and worked for local Toowoomba Catholic Schools as she raised her family, Jenny said she was enjoying teaching intermittently on contracts and through relief work, returning to full time teaching after taking some time out to spend with her children.

“In 2011 my family’s world was turned upside down when my husband was diagnosed with renal cancer and then lung and bone cancer. We decided we needed to tick off the bucket list after the second diagnosis and Toowoomba Catholic Schools were brilliant and supported us by enabling me to take 5 years unpaid leave.” 

During that time Jenny and her husband travelled extensively and when he passed away, Jenny returned to relief work in some of the school communities she had been a part of before.

“It was as I had remembered, and I was working amongst colleagues and friends.  This was a wonderful kick start to what was a changed life plan for me,” said Jenny.

 In 2017, Jenny suffered a stroke.

“Once again Toowoomba Catholic Schools were so supportive. My colleagues were there to help me through and once I learned to walk again, I was back to work in Oakey.”

So how did she get to Cunnamulla?

In 2019, a long-time colleague and dear friend, Sue Keefer, asked if she would be available to do three days of relief work in Cunnamulla.

“I thought, why not? I had such a great experience in those three days that I continued doing relief work on and off in Cunnamulla for the next six months. People thought I was a bit mad making the trip; what they didn’t know was that I was gaining just as much as I was giving in every visit.”

“I then heard about the incentive payment for those that stayed on for three years, and thought, mmmm, that is a challenge I am willing to give a good crack.  So here I am, nearly at the end of that three years."

"I live in a gorgeous little cottage, have a great neighbour and friend, a wonderful social life with my colleagues with our regular Saturday coffee at the local café and drinks and dinners, I have time for my hobbies…and most importantly I am seeing the children grow and learn.”

It has been a win-win for Jenny and the students of Sacred Heart, “what I noticed was that as the children's results improved, so did my health. I also noticed that while I was working out here, the huge gap left in my life from the loss of my husband, was beginning to close.  They were helping me as much as I helped them – what a wonderful journey it has been."  

'I encourage anyone who is looking for a new adventure, to consider coming west – even for a year – you might be like me and not want to leave!”

If you are considering a move to one of our regional towns, we encourage you to consider joining Toowoomba Catholic Schools as well.