IT was a sad but memorable day at Cabramatta High School last Wednesday when one of the school's longest-serving teachers retired after 32 years.
Ronda Gaffey, who started her career at the school in 1981, was farewelled during an afternoon ceremony.
The 69-year-old, who has been the school's Intensive English Centre (IEC) head teacher since 1988, said she would take with her plenty of wonderful memories.
"The highlights would definitely be the students and their life stories," she said.
"I think of the incredible disadvantages that students and their families face and how we're able to help them re-establish their lives."
Ms Gaffey said she had seen many changes during her time at the school.
"There was a lot of Spanish kids when I first started and then we had the Vietnamese refugees, boat people in the '70s and '80s, the Cambodian people, who are some of the most traumatised, then there was the fall-out of Tiananmen Square, we had the Bosnian and Serbian groups and then the Africans and Afghans, Iraqi and Iranian groups come in," she said.
The school's principal, Beth Godwin, said it was through the work of Ms Gaffey that many students began their life in Australia with hope and a direction for the future.
"Ronda has been a champion of students newly arriving in Australia," she said.
"She has fought with passion and determination for their inclusion in Australian education and society.
"She has been the voice of the silent. She has been the hope for those who may have felt helpless.
"She has been instrumental in families finding a new beginning in Australia."
Ms Gaffey said she decided to retire after losing her husband of 45 years earlier this year.
"After I lost him I didn't have the energy to continue so it's bitter sweet that he's not here to share it with me," she said.
"I am now going to explore all the different identities that I have other than my professional identity so I will read a lot of books and hopefully do some volunteer work in the school."