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Helen Folker - St John's Lutheran School

Helen Folker shares a remarkable 30-year history with St John's Lutheran School - 18 of which she served as Principal. It's now time for Mrs Folker to say goodbye.

Retiring St John’s Lutheran School Principal Helen Folker will miss many things about the beloved Kingaroy school she has dedicated her professional life to.

“What I’m going to miss most is being part of a team; the synergy of working together with other education professionals,” she says.

“I have been very fortunate and blessed to have wonderful staff and a support team who are very dedicated and passionate educators – they have been a huge part of the school’s success.”

However, there is one school duty Mrs Folker admits she’s happy to forego.

“I will not miss playground duty in winter in Kingaroy,” she laughs. “When the westerly winds pick up they cut right through you. It doesn’t matter how hot or cold it is though, the kids always want to play.”

Mrs Folker and St John’s Lutheran School share an impressive 30-year history together.

The mother-of-three and now grandmother of five, was one of the school’s two founding teachers in 1989. The school opened with 26 students in classrooms that were purchased for $1500 and transported to the Ivy Street site on the back of a truck.

“I do thank God for those initial parents because this was something new to town,” she recalls. “What a commitment they made.”

Word quickly spread and confidence in the school and its teacher and teaching principal grew; 70 students enrolled the second year.

Since that time the school has celebrated numerous milestones, such as establishing a kindergarten on site, expanding into secondary education and growing its enrolments to more than 420 students.

However, it’s the caring and close-knit community that the school has fostered and the commitment of its devoted staff to bring out the best in every child, of which Mrs Folker is most proud.

“What’s important to me is that we have been able to provide a place where the children can be successful,” she says.

“I say to children when they have to come and talk to me in my office that ‘we want you to be the best that you can be’. That will look different for every child because they all have different gifts and different abilities and they need to find the thing that they can shine at.”

The school also strives every day to work in partnership with its parent community and to nip concerns in the bud.

“We try to make sure that each day issues are followed up on the day, so that if there’s a little issue it’s dealt with before it becomes a big issue,” Mrs Folker says.

The humble and softy-spoken principal admits she “fell into leadership” with the encouragement of her colleagues after 12 years working as a teacher at the school.

After 18 years at the helm, Mrs Folker’s hope for her replacement is that they understand the rhythms and challenges of rural life, such as when the peanut crop comes in, and that they wholeheartedly embrace being part of the local community.

“Regional needs are very different to city needs. In a country community part of the role description of the Principal is to be part of the community,” she says.

Mrs Folker finished at the end of Term 1, 2019.

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