On her first day as a professional teacher, Cathy Wheeler walked into St Patrick's Primary School and she has been there ever since.
Her dedication to the Lithgow Catholic school and the Bathurst Diocese as a whole was recognised on Friday, August 9, with a 'Years of Service Award' for 30 years.
Now a part-time literacy and numeracy specialist, Mrs Wheeler said she stayed at St Patrick's so long because she's "very happy here".
"I've always thought that this was a family school, it's a school where people look after each other, look out for each other and care for each other," she said.
Mrs Wheeler comes from a family of teachers. One of eight, three of Mrs Wheeler's siblings became teachers, following in the footsteps of her mother, who was teaching at Cullen Bullen when she met their father, who was from Portland.
In fact her brother, Cowra Catholic school teacher Grahame Statham, was recognised with his award for 25 years of service at the very same award ceremony as Mrs Wheeler, at Wellington last Friday.
Her sister, Kylie, who teaches at Gulgong, has also racked up decades of service in the Catholic system.
Despite the family passion for teaching, Mrs Wheeler said it was a "last minute" choice to study education rather than become an accountant.
Her first teaching post was to St Patrick's Primary School.
"I loved it," she said.
And Lithgow soon became home. Mrs Wheeler's own two sons have passed through St Patrick's Primary School and are now grown.
Mrs Wheeler has largely specialised in infants and early primary teaching throughout her career.
She said she loved the process of teaching young children those fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy, which has now become her primary focus.
Mrs Wheeler has taught under the leadership of six different principals and seen significant change and expansion of the school's infrastructure since she arrived.
"I see students here and I taught their parents - no grandparents yet!," she said.
"It is nice to see that people who were students here are now sending their own kids."
Mrs Wheeler had met the challenge of staying motivated as a teacher for 30 years by moving classes regularly and constantly trying new things.
"I always try to stay flexible and adaptive," she said.
The St Patrick's Primary School community took to social media to congratulate Mrs Wheeler on her achievement. "We are so proud and feel extremely lucky to have such an amazing, dedicated teacher at St Pat's!"
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