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As a highly respected lecturer, program coordinator, selection officer and course adviser, Russell Matthews has been one of the longest-serving academics with Deakin University's Faculty of Education.
A well-known and widely published academic, not many current students and staff would realise that Russell holds a unique place in Deakin's history.
Russell was one of the first Deakin academics to be published, with his 1978 text "The Victorian primary school: changing emphasis." Along with Dr Harry Singer (UC Riverside), Russell helped build Deakin's fledgling distance education programs by developing one of the first and most successful off-campus education programs in teaching reading. He is also one of the few remaining original staff members from 1977, when Deakin was established.
Originally a graduate from a Deakin antecedent institution, the Geelong Teachers College (GTC) in 1964, Russell later undertook further study at Monash University, graduating with bachelor degrees in Arts, Education and Special Education.
Russell has had a long and distinguished career as a teacher and academic. After teaching in various rural and metropolitan schools for some years-including the vice-principal role at Albert Park Primary School-he was persuaded to join the staff of his alma mater GTC in 1973, which later became part of the State College of Victoria, and eventually Deakin University, where he has worked ever since.
"As a consequence of my initial teaching qualification, I was a head teacher in two different rural schools; I was involved in teaching English as a second language in outer suburban Melbourne and was a classroom teacher in inner suburban Melbourne. This has provided a substantive practical background to my work in the Faculty of Education," he said.
Russell credits his school teacher mother as having the strongest influence on his career choice.
"I always wanted to be a teacher. My mother was a teacher until the age of 65. I realise now that while her influence was never explicit, it was nonetheless powerful," he said.
Having contributed to the education of literally thousands of children and student teachers for over 30 years, Russell is very pleased to see the career progress made by so many of his former pupils.
"Many of the graduates I have taught over the years are now school principals, some have university lectureships, some work as curriculum consultants and many have completed graduate studies. All have enhanced the reputation of the Faculty of Education. I have gained great pleasure out of seeing their careers develop over the years," he said.
After so many years in the education industry, Russell believes that Deakin teaching graduates are very well prepared for long and successful careers.
"Deakin teacher education courses equip our graduates to engage in lifelong learning about their teaching. They are encouraged to adopt a critically reflective approach as they seek to establish a rational basis for continuity or change in their teaching practices," he said.
Russell has been part of the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST) since 1985 and was heavily involved in the formative years of Deakin's baseball and cricket clubs.
"My great contribution to these clubs was with a shovel rather than a bat or ball, in the days when voluntary labour was required to create turf pitches and diamonds," he recalled.
As for future plans, Russell is clear: "I want to live in Montmartre, France, drink red wine and watch the Geelong Football Club win a succession of premierships!"
Russell retired from lecturing in 2009 after some thirty years service with Deakin and the Geelong State College.