By Colin MacGillivray
The Willovmavin Primary School community came together on Thursday to pay tribute to beloved teacher Kate Taylor, who died from a blood clot in April.
Students, staff and families helped to create a ‘Kate’s Day’ celebration of Ms Taylor, celebrating her many passions including the Harry Potter book series and the Western Bulldogs AFL team.
Members of Ms Taylor’s family attended an assembly in her honour, with grade six students leading the school in a song about their teacher set to the tune of the theme from the TV show Friends – I’ll Be There for You, by The Rembrandts.
Ms Taylor’s sister, Kerrie Rogers, attended the assembly and said her family had been touched by the tribute.
She described Ms Taylor, 37, as someone with a deep passion for teaching and her students.
“She loved this community and this school. It’s been hard coming back because you know how much of a difference she made in kids’ lives,” Ms Rogers said.
“She wanted to make a difference. She wanted kids to be kind no matter what. It didn’t matter what you looked like or your level of ability, everyone was treated equally no matter what.
“We know all about the kids but I’ve never seen their faces, because she talked about them all the time – they were her children.
“A lot of the kids played football and other things on weekends, and they would ask her to come and watch. She lived an hour away and she would come watch them play football and netball or do equestrian events in her own time. She wanted to show the kids that they were important to her.”
Ms Rogers described Kate’s Day as ‘beautiful’ and said it showed the impact Ms Taylor made on her students.
“About 100 people from the school came to her funeral and they all got to write a message on Kate’s coffin. It shows that she made a difference and an impact on the community,” she said.
“We want to thank the community for embracing her.”
Willowmavin Primary School principal Andrew O’Callaghan said it had been a turbulent time for students and staff alike, but was glad to be able to celebrate Ms Taylor’s legacy at the school.
“She was the longest-serving staff member at the school. In that time she built really strong bonds between herself and the students,” he said.
“We were pleased to see so many families coming out, especially ones that don’t have any attachment to the school any more, so to speak, with kids who have already graduated. It was our biggest assembly for some time.
“She wasn’t quiet, she wasn’t shy – she had a lot of life, which is why [her death] came as such a shock for everyone. You couldn’t have had more life in a person.”
Mr O’Callaghan praised the grade six students for their leadership during the assembly.
“It was pleasing that the grade sixes were really keen to be out the front for the song even though some of them might have been out of their comfort zone,” he said.
“I also want to thank the teachers. I know staff came in [for the assembly] when otherwise they might not have come in because they were pretty exhausted.”
Mr O’Callaghan said the school was exploring options for a long-term memorial for Ms Taylor.
He said after consulting with students and Mitchell Shire Council, the school had chosen five options – a refurbishment and renaming of the school’s ‘buddy bench’, renaming part or all of the school library in Ms Taylor’s honour, naming an annual reading award after Ms Taylor, or making Kate’s Day an annual event.
“I think it’s really important that the kids are involved in the decision. They’re all pretty fitting suggestions, and whichever one it is we’ll spend some time making sure we do it right,” he said.
Mr O’Callaghan said no matter what option was chosen, Ms Taylor would never be forgotten at the school.
“Everyone who attended [the assembly] got a feel of who Kate was at the school, and that’s the main thing we wanted to come out of it,” he said.
“She was a significant figure at our school. As much as Willowmavin meant to Kate, she meant just as much to Willowmavin.”