I am working for three weeks in Sydney and am very sorry that I cannot be with you all at today's Celebration.
For 45 years, I have been teaching young people - and thoroughly enjoy every minute of it.
Why did I enter the teaching profession?
I can answer that question in two words: "Len Gardner".
I have had many excellent teachers, but nobody was quite like Mr Gardner at Largs Bay Primary School in Grade 6 (1952) and Grade 7 (1953).
He was inspiration personified.
In two years, he changed my attitude to teaching, learning and communication.
He broke the rules.
He dismantled the artificial barriers between subjects.
Maths lessons became sing-a-long music lessons!
History lessons morphed into personal stories from Len's World War II experience.
English, Geography and Art were cross-pollinated.
And, of course, Science explained everything in Sport!
Len had a love of learning and a passion for communication. We all caught his contagious enthusiasm for life.
Eleven days ago, my brother, Clive, and I had coffee with Len, Kath and Jayne at the Gardner home in Woodville. We were delighted to find out that it was the same Len we'd always known - the unique sense of humour, the incredible memory, and the inspirational storyteller.
He died five days later.
Len changed my life and the lives of countless other students. If, at the end of my life, I could know that I've had a fraction of the influence on young people that Len has had on us, I would die a happy man.
Thank you, Len Gardner!