When Dallas Petrie started at Cobden Tech School as a newly-graduated maths and science teacher in 1976, he figured he'd only be there for a couple of years.
Fast forward to 2019, the now 69-year-old is still actively involved in the school and Cobden community despite officially retiring in 2010.
"My wife Heather and I came to Cobden from Melbourne after my two years of teacher training," he said ahead of the school's 50th birthday this weekend.
"I love the country, I was born in Portland and we were keen to get out because we didn't want to have children in the city. We chose Cobden because there were such a wide-range of schools around us and it was such a nice, quiet little country town.
I didn't plan to stay, but I'm still here.Dallas Petrie
"I didn't plan to stay, but I'm still here. We built a house thinking we would stay there a little while, we thought we would move on but we just found it was a lifestyle, not a job.
"You go to the shops and you talk to parents at the supermarket, it's a real community."
What Mr Petrie liked most about the school, he explained, was its alternative approach to education.
"When I started at the school in 1976 it was such an alternative style, we were able to have classes with year sevens, eights and nines all together and students could really individualise their programs," he said.
"Teachers were coordinated so that you would have a group of students you basically parented at school, and they had choices of what classes they would go to.
"They had the basic schooling of maths, science and English, but because it was a technical school we had a range of workshops - metal work, woodwork, electrical - lots of trade type classes and students could choose to do those as open units.
"It was a really good system, you kept track of your group of students, the parents were regularly involved in checking what they were doing every week.
"Towards the end of the '80s the school went back to a more traditional system but remained a tech school, and we were the only tech school in the state. There was a real push from the state government to convert all schools to secondary schools, but we stayed and it was definitely a strength."
Mr Petrie taught chemistry, maths, science and physics, and was impressed by the breadth of choice offered to students. He said just as many students went on to TAFE as they did university.
He took part in the driver education program at the school, the automotive workshops and is still heavily involved in the school's annual 24-hour energy car race.
"My wife and I were both involved in the energy cars, we would take a busload of students to Maryborough and three teams of six would take part in a 24-hour race from 1pm on Saturday through to 1pm on Sunday," he said.
"They were hybrid cars with a battery drive and small petrol engine, and teams had to organise to swap driver out, fix the cars and it was just fantastic for the students to have those real challenges and be involved with a competition like that.
"The kids with an automotive or electrical interest built the cars - made the fibreglass bodies, weld the chassis, and those who liked sport could compete in the race.
"There was something for everyone."
He thinks it was the "glory days" for teachers.
"I think I worked through one of the best times, there were no mobile phones for students and there didn't seem to be the drama that there is these days," he said.
"Students would just come to school and not be involved in any of that phone conversation, it was happening in the yard, but they didn't seem to have that overarching electronic connection that they have now.
"It was a great time and there was a lot of progress, it seemed like we were in an easier time."
School fosters growth of generations
Ecklin's Melissa Benson and her two brothers all went to Cobden Technical School, and now her 15-year-old Abbey is in year nine at the school.
Ms Benson graduated in 1995 and has fond memories of her time at the school.
"We had great numbers back then, it was a great school to learn in because all the teachers were very supportive and you got the opportunity to not only do your typical classes, but you got to do woodwork, electrical classes, automotive classes and work with sheet metal if you wanted to," she said.
"Coming from a farming background it was excellent because you got to try all the trades out.
"It's funny, my daughter is doing welding now and I never would have thought she would have chosen welding and now it's one of her favourite subjects.
"I made great friendships over that time, there were lots of chances to be involved in sport, and I made some great connections with some teachers and still to this day I see those teachers in the street and stop and talk to them."
She is now part of the parent's committee and her other daughter Madison, who is 17 attends the Hampden Specialist School which is on the grounds of Cobden Tech School and her two sons, still in primary school, will also go to Cobden Tech.
Abbey has tried out just about all the trade subjects.
"I'm interested in the trade stuff, the classes are all fairly big but there's only a couple of girls who do the class," she said.
"I like being able to do all the trades, I did woodwork last year.
"It's cool to be able to choose, you get to choose four subjects in year 9 and 10 and there's about 13 subjects to choose from.
"It's a bit weird that all my teachers taught my mum," she said with a laugh.
'Continuing to grow and evolve'
Cobden Technical School Principal Rohan Keert said the school continued to grow and evolve.
"Experiencing the role of principal over the past six years has been nothing short of a beautiful challenge; I'm working to maintain a balance between celebrating the legacy of its now 50 years with the desire to offer our students and community the ever-improving, exceptional education it deserves," he said.
I'm working to maintain a balance between celebrating the legacy of its now 50 years with the desire to offer our students and community the ever-improving, exceptional education it deserves.Rohan Keert
"This period has seen significant upgrades to facilities, with recent works providing accessibility to our main buildings and of course, the redevelopment of the Trade Training Centre, opened in 2018.
"Arguably the most demanding experience has been the devastating 2018 fires, which forced our short-term relocation as we battled with the scope of their impact.
"But the response of the entire community continues to drive home for me the privilege of leading such an awesome school, the beautiful challenge of our work is shaping communities and futures."
To celebrate, the school will host activities Saturday and Sunday, including a plaque unveiling at 3pm on Saturday.
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