Michael Penhaligon was first appointed to the College on 1 June 1991 as a teacher of students with learning needs and disabilities by the Principal of that time, Mr Tony Curtis. He also received a small allowance to coordinate the program for students in the Special Education Centre. In 2004, Vaughan Sadler created the role of Head of Education Support Unit, a role Michael held until the conclusion of 2012. Michael wanted to finish his career teaching the students he loved so dearly, and selflessly assisting the College by mentoring newly appointed Head of ESC, Sara Campbell. This testimonial clearly indicates the qualities that have made Michael a well respected and much loved staff member.
Michael was well ahead of the times in terms of knowing how to best support students with disabilities or learning needs, or those who presented with major behavioural issues, in schools. He moved from the UK in 1989, initially taking up a position at Castlereagh school in Willetton in 1990. His Principal at the time noted Michael was ‘very adaptable in meeting students needs, a good staff member who works very well with students’; another Principal notes he was a ‘an extremely competent and talented teacher…who was an invaluable administrator’; these are a summary of the qualities that I believe have been a hallmark of Michael’s career. A committed parishioner at Willetton, Michael was ‘called’ to apply at Corpus Christi because we were a Catholic school with a Special Education Centre, a position he saw as vocational. We have been truly fortunate to enlist Michael in 1991, which led to our College building a very long tradition of providing exemplary programmes in support of students with disabilities for most of our history. Michael’s legacy will live on in our staff, student and family community for many years to come.
Michael’s expertise and professionalism are without question, of a high standard. He came to Corpus Christi College with a broad range of professional experiences. In the UK Michael was initially employed as an Assistant Magistrates Clerk in various localities for five years, before training as a teacher, specialising in Physical Education and Social and Community Studies. A lifelong learner, Michael then completed Certificates in Counselling and Remedial Education, then qualified with an Advanced Diploma in the Education of Students with Special Learning Needs over the course of 8 years. He taught in various schools, including St Joseph’s Community Home where he became a Head of Department, and by 1983 became a the Deputy Principal in Charge of Education a the Redsands Assessment Centre in Cheshire for 4 years, a mainstream school with a special centre, caring for students across the special needs spectrum who were intellectually and physically disabled. Not resting on his laurels, Michael then moved to Grappen Hall, a special school for boys with severe emotional and social difficulties, who often presented with major behavioural issues, often placed in care by the Juvenile Court. During these years, Michael was involved in producing Individual Education Plans for every child, coordinating educational testing, reorganising the curriculum and implementing alternative programs for students, was chair of Case Conferences using representatives from multiple agencies to support each child, and was involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Michael was a hard working and conscientious teacher for his entire career.
Every Principal of the College has sought and valued Michael’s professional opinion, particularly on issues relating to the care and development of children with disabilities, assisting them to transition into life beyond Corpus Christi College, supporting families in many ways. Michael introduced residential camps for students, providing them with many and varied physical challenges and a variety of cultural experiences in high quality accommodation in some great locations. The camps also provided some respite for families enabling them to recharge and do something different at home, but also prepared students for mainstream experiences, such as our College Retreat programmes. Michael’s focus on providing an inclusive programme for students with disabilities has been a hallmark of his time at the College. A formal social skills programme, Peer Pals was another successful pastoral initiative, which saw mainstream students develop a relationship with a student who was primarily working in the centre, often leading to strong bonds of friendships amongst students.
Some of the qualities Michael will be remembered for will be his warm, confident and outgoing personality, his positive attitude and keen sense of humour, and the wonderful way he connects with people from all walks of life. You can always depend on Michael who has been a reliable staff member for his entire career. Michael has been popular amongst both students and staff alike. He always ensures people feel at ease, listens to their needs intently, and makes each person he meets feel as if they are the most important person in the world. Parents have often commented on these personality traits, which have made him a much loved staff member of the College over the course of the past 24 years.
A keen sportsman, Michael’s other great passion is Rugby Union, which was clearly evident over the course of his time at the College. When first appointed to the College, Michael had been playing Rugby for 25 years. Soon after arriving in WA Michael gained the Rugby Level 2 Coaching Award, and has held a long association with the Southern Lions Rugby Club, where he is president. Michael has also been awarded the Associated and Catholic College’s 20 Year Service Award in 2013, having been instrumental in supporting the various ‘para’ sporting events we have been involved in since their inception, all indicators of Michael’s passion for Physical Education and sport, which has never waned over the course of his career.
Michael Penhaligon will now embark on a retirement that will look more like ‘freelancing’ with a number of projects he will be undertaking in the coming months. This includes improving his golfing technique, something the staff that play with him say is one of the few things Michael has not quite mastered as yet! We expect to see Michael out at Melville Glades Golf Course frequently over the next few months. I am sure we will also continue to see Mike around the College in a relief teacher capacity once he has had a well-earned rest during his Long Service Leave, and reduced his golfing handicap!
I have personally known Michael Penhaligon since 2009 when I was first appointed as the Principal of Corpus Christi. I feel privileged to be the one to farewell one of our long serving staff who has given most of his career to a signature programme at the College. I salute Michael Penhaligon for his 24 years of service to our students, to the many staff who have worked with him, and to the parents he has supported in this time.
Caroline Payne BA, Dip Ed, MEdL, MRE
2 April 2015