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Time To Say Thank You: How one country school kept their community smiling during lockdown

It's the little school with a big heart!

By Lizzie Wilson
Tucked away in the picturesque Goulburn Valley in country Victoria is the Kialla Central Primary School, attended by just 77 students, four teachers and one remarkable principal.
After enduring lockdown that forced them into remote learning for months, the gutsy boys and girls of Kialla have just one message – THANK YOU!
"We never expected such a wonderful outpouring of thanks," principal Debbie Humphries – or Miss H as the kids prefer – tells Woman's Day from the school's playground where the students have gathered to pay tribute to the dedicated staff who supported them during these recent tough times.
"We're incredibly humbled knowing our hard work has paid off – just look at those smiles!"
The kids of Kialla were thrilled to thank the "best teachers in Australia". Pictures: Liz Arcus
Spending time with these amazing children, one unique quality really shines through –their exceptional kindness.
"Collectively, they're a delight and each incredibly unique – you won't find a single bully amongst them!
"From Foundation One through to Year 6, all 77 come together as one, each adding their little bit of magic to the mix," says Debbie, 52.
"Our school motto, 'A small school doing big school things!', encapsulates what we aim to do every day – to go beyond the normal course of duty, to tailor their education to their individual strengths, and weaknesses, and give them a chance at life to shine and be their best."
It's never easy chatting to dozens of enthusiastic little people, so school co-captains Annika van Riet and Harry Keat stepped up to tell Woman's Day why their school is so special.
"I've been here at Kialla Central since Foundation," Harry, 11, explains confidently.
"Thanks to the best teachers in Australia, actually the universe, lockdown and remote learning was like being in the classroom – only more fun!
"Being part of our school community is like having a whole other family to spend your day with. Ever since I started in prep, I've been well treated by the teachers and the big kids.
"So now I'm in Grade 6 and a school captain, it's my job to help teach the little ones that we must always look out for each other," he says.
Debbie, aka Miss H, receives some well-deserved flowers from Blooming Buckets Kialla Pictures: Liz Arcus
Annika, who is honoured to captain the school with her good mate Harry, is convinced Miss H and the Kialla staff are real-life angels, without the wings!
"During lockdown, they changed everything to make learning more interesting.
"We had a competition to match baby pics to each of the teachers – which wasn't hard because there's not many of them!" Annika, 11, says with a cheeky smile.
"We made Mother's Day cards as part of our art curriculum, and they organised flowers from a local community garden to gift to our mums.
"We did our version of I'm A Grade Five-Sixer… Get Me Out Of Here! and we got to dress up as our favourite footy team for a whole day!
The smiles say it all! Pictures: Liz Arcus
"If one of us were having a birthday, they all got in their cars and drove by our houses singing Happy Birthday and beeping their horns!" she says.
Meeting all four teachers, Deanne Moulsdale, Ashlea Baker, Amanda Posteraro and Mitchell Zito, along with dedicated support staffers Lisa Irwin and Tracey Opie, it's not hard to see why each student is made to feel special.
"As it turns out, it does take a village to raise a child!" says principal Debbie.
"We have children from our farming and town communities, as well as kids of essential workers who during lockdown needed to come into the classroom, so the program had to be user-friendly for everyone.
The students love coming to school Pictures: Liz Arcus
"We pride ourselves on making sure both the children and the parents are OK, and that everyone in the family is coping, particularly in these challenging times."
Back in the playground, it's lunchtime and school captain Annika is helping a Grade 2 student who has taken a tumble.
"One day when I'm older, I'll always remember Kialla Central as a special place where I was able to grow, to learn, and to have fun," she says.
"But most of all, to be caring and kind, because in the end, that's all that counts."
Tell us about your hero and win them $250!
Do you have someone special you'd like to thank? Tell us about them and why they should have a thank you shout out in Woman's Day and win $250.
Email womansday@aremedia.com.au and in 250 words or less, tell us how they helped you or your community during a tough time. Or enter online here.
Please include your and their name, age, suburb, contact details and images of yourself and your nominee.

Keep scrolling to see all the art the kids created

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