Margaret Peterson has left her mark in the hearts and minds of a community that will remember her not only for her impact on one Shepparton school, but as a vibrant mother, teacher and friend.
Tributes have flowed for a woman best known for her years spent teaching at Wanganui Park Secondary College, after she died aged 73 in a car accident on Thursday last week.
After completing her schooling at Shepparton High School, Mrs Peterson (nee Ridley) embarked on a teaching career at Bendigo Primary School and then Shepparton Girls High School, before transitioning, with the school, to Parkside Dve, where it became Wanganui Park Secondary College.
Retired teacher Di Feldtmann worked alongside Mrs Peterson as one of the school’s original teachers and said her absence had sent ripples through the community.
‘‘(It’s) such a tragic loss personally and for our WPSC family,’’ Ms Feldtmann said.
‘‘Her teaching and support for our students went far beyond the classroom. She had so much love for her students and was still in touch with many, in particular those who did not find school easy.
‘‘She was a vibrant person and she was very happy, jovial and cheeky. She was the light of the staff to a point, not overly loud but she was just good to have around.’’
Mrs Peterson was well-known and admired as an English teacher by many students, who remembered her as generous, honest and committed to whomever she taught.
Ms Feldtmann said her friend dedicated her time and was passionate about helping students who had difficulty with literacy.
‘‘She used to encourage the kids to do the best they could and she was very good at individualising their needs,’’ Ms Feldtmann said.
‘‘She was firm and clear in her expectations of the kids and she would recognise each student’s needs and treat them in the way she thought they would best learn, and that’s what they loved her for.’’
Although teaching remained an important aspect of Mrs Peterson’s life, her love for her family was a passion she held above everything else.
After her husband died, Mrs Peterson brought up her two daughters, Deanne and Teisha, alone, and soon became a strong matriarchal figure in the girls’ and their family’s lives.
Teisha said her mother was one of the strongest women she knew and brought her two daughters up with a strong sense of self worth.
‘‘She was a single mum for a long time and we were a tight unit of three and that remained forever,’’ Teisha said.
‘‘She’s one of the few people in the world who laughed out loud a lot. I’m going to miss her laugh, her advice and I will most definitely miss her love.
‘‘We felt very well-loved and that was important for her.’’
Ms Feldtmann said Mrs Peterson would not only be missed by her family, students and colleagues, but by many in the community.
‘‘I think what I will miss most is her smile, her conversations about education and her laugh because she could see the funny side of many things,’’ Ms Feldtmann said.
‘‘She was a very positive person to be around. She was only a small person, but she had a big personality.’’
Details of Margaret’s funeral will be published in The News.
Bruce Williams (former English teacher and deputy principal at WPSC): Margaret was one of those teachers who combined steel and lambs wool, and knew instinctively when each was appropriate. She was a powerful, understated leader and example, with something to teach all of us.
Wanganui has had some great teachers over the years. Maggie will always be remembered as right up there with the best and the kindest and most caring of people. She influenced so many lives for the better.
Rob Robson (former English teacher at WPSC): She was a great teacher, and friend, and mentor, to her colleagues as much as her students. I am so saddened by this news.
Philip Oakes (WPSC teacher): Always the kindest and most generous person. Margaret was a Home Group One (member) through and through and it was a pleasure to be her partner in Home Group One for quite some years. I learned so much from her about humility and kindness and generosity, but with a firm hand!
All those students and many others she nurtured and cared for, and she will never be forgotten by them or by me.
Sue Dickson (WPSC teacher): So sad. Marg was one of the first to make me feel welcome at Wanganui.
She was warm and friendly with a great sense of humour.
Condolences to her family.
Cate Baldi (past parent): Deanne, my first parent teacher interview was with your Mum. What an inspiration to my son and hundreds of others she taught. A great character who inspired children to be the best they could be. She will be sadly missed.
Jacinta Murray (past student): She could always see the good in me and was always so caring and such a beautiful sweet kind hearted person. Heaven really did gain an angel.
Wendy Ratcliffe (past student): This is so sad to hear. Mrs Peterson was a wonderful teacher who made a big difference to the lives of all she came in contact with. Rest in peace.