A love for Languages - Celebrating 100 years of language teacher education

8 December 2015

Gillian Cordy, Graduation (BA 1968) and Lesley Harbon (BA, Dip Ed 1981)
Gillian Cordy, Graduation (BA 1968) and Lesley Harbon (BA, Dip Ed 1981)

To commemorate a century of foreign language teacher education at the University of Sydney, the Faculty of Education and Social Work in conjunction with the Modern Language Teachers' Association of New South Wales (MLTA of NSW) will host an event to celebrate this historic occasion on 18 March 2016.

Organisers of the upcoming event, Lesley Harbon (BA, Dip Ed) and Gillian Cordy (BA), are both alumna of the University of Sydney and Sydney Teachers College, now Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. Both share their love and passion of languages and their significant journeys since graduating.

Lesley Harbon (BA, Dip Ed 1981)
Lesley Harbon (BA, Dip Ed 1981)

Being introduced to the 'magic' of languages at high school and inspired by her peers and teachers while studying to become a teacher at Sydney Teachers College was the spark for Lesley in her journey to learn the Indonesian and German languages.

"Sydney Teachers College was graduating a new group of dynamic, engaging Indonesian teachers each year in the early 1970s, and my teacher, the fabulous Donna Wood, was a perfect role model. I guess I just wanted to be like her, and so followed in her footsteps with a BA and Dip Ed at Sydney," said Lesley.

While experiencing opportunities including a 5-week intensive Indonesian Language and Culture Course program at Satya Wacana University in Salatiga, Central Java and joining clubs including the Sydney University Indonesian and Malayan Studies Society (SUIMS), her journey upon graduating with her Graduate Diploma in Education has taken her all over Australia to teach the Indonesian Language at primary and secondary schools as well as universities.

"I first taught Indonesian at Tennant Creek High School in the Northern Territory, then at University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, and finally at Parkes Public School in the Central West of New South Wales before moving into language teacher education at the University of Tasmania in 1996."

After completing her PhD at the University of Tasmania, Lesley went full-circIe and moved back to Sydney to work in the language teacher preparation programs at the University of Sydney from 2002 until early 2015. Lesley is now Professor and Head of School of International Studies at University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Gillian Cordy, Alumna (BA 1968)
Gillian Cordy, Alumna (BA 1968)

While it was compulsory to study French and Latin at high school for Gillian, learning languages eventually lead to a passion for languages after the advice of her older sister to choose a fourth subject in her first year of studies in which she chose Indonesian and Malayan Studies.

"1965 was a very dramatic year in Indonesia's history and it was as if we lived through every development in our classes with passionate and engaging lecturers, Professor van Naerssen, H.W Emanuels, T.S. Lie, Ichsan and Jon Soemaryono among them. The experience aroused an interest in international affairs and politics in a previously naive late teenager." said Gillian.

When Gillian completed her Bachelor of Arts, she was directed straight in the classroom at St Patrick's College where she taught for 34 years.

"I began teaching French and Ancient History and anything else required of me. It was like that in those days. If you could teach, you could teach anything!"

Gillian eventually started to teach Indonesian and her passion eventually lead to many trips to Indonesia, including guest mentor to staff teaching at IPEKA integrated Christian School in Jakarta.

Her rewarding journey through language teacher education has enabled her to become an adviser at the Catholic Education Office (CEO) Sydney, for the National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program and now as an Education Officer advising and supporting teachers and students of all languages in the Archdiocese of Sydney, representing CEO Sydney in cross-sectoral, state and national forums and, advocating for and promoting Languages Education in our schools.

Share your journey with us

If you studied language teacher education at the Sydney Teachers College or the University of Sydney, please share your story with us!

If you have any photos from your training period, please outline and include in a one-page document to be considered for inclusion in the 100 Year Anniversary booklet.

The Faculty of Education and Social Work will also develop a Where Are They Now? website. If you graduated as a teacher of Languages at Sydney Teachers' College/the University of Sydney (undergraduate or postgraduate), email your name, a quality headshot image and no more than 100 words about the language(s) you teach/taught, your experience studying and as a teacher in the schools you have taught.

If you would like to attend the Centenary Event next year, please visit the following link for more information: