“It was a very interesting shock for me, the whole thing,” the long-time primary teacher tells EducationHQ.

“A lot of the parents spoke no English, and some of those who could, used very colourful language that I had never heard come out of anyone’s mouth.”

Times – and shock levels – have changed dramatically since Grossbard’s early days as a first grade teacher at a Footscray school in Melbourne’s west.

Having now clocked up no less than 37 years at Gardenvale Primary School, the enthused educator and curriculum leader says the classroom is her ultimate ‘happy space’.

“I absolutely love it,” she says of the profession.

“I walk into this classroom, and ... I feel straightaway, a love and a real contentment when I’m in here. The children just totally inspire me.”

Grossbard is among 275 long-serving Victorian educators and support staff who have recently been awarded a Recognition of Service to Victorian Education for their dedication to public school communities spanning 40-55 years.

The teacher, who decided as a young child that she was destined to pursue a career in the classroom, can’t quite believe the recognition.

“I don’t even think of it like that. For me, it’s Monday, and then suddenly, it’s Friday. And I go, ‘Oh, my God, where did this week go?’

“I think if you do something you love, time just doesn’t matter anymore.”

Reflecting on the greatest shifts the profession has seen over the years, Grossbard nominates technology, teacher collegiality and parental attitudes as the big three.

“In the olden days, you were an island. You did not share and you had to have your own lessons ready for the inspector, because that’s how you got a promotion. And so all of that is completely different…” she says.

“The children have changed massively. Now the biggest issue is resilience and helicopter parents – children are not allowed to fail, they are not allowed to fall.”

Teachers’ knowledge of learning and behavioural issues has also deepened remarkably, Grossbard suggests.

“What was classified in the olden days as a ‘naughty boy’, we now straightaway go, ‘OK, he needs assessment. I think it’s this’.

“So, you have a much deeper knowledge of all of the things [that show up in the classroom].”

“Long-serving teachers and support staff are the backbone of our education system," Victorian Minister for Education Ben Carroll said at the awards ceremony. 

Two of the teacher’s own colleagues are among those celebrated for reaching 45 and 40-year career milestones.

Grossbard says once teachers come to Gardenvale Primary School they never want to leave – even those who previously might have been on the verge of quitting altogether.

“I’m very lucky because my school is just so supportive, and don’t die when I tell you this, but I’ve been here for 37 years,” she laughs. 

“It’s a community of love really here, from our parents as well – if any of our staff or parents are ill or anything, the whole community just rallies together.

“Our principal makes us part of the school family here. We (also) have a very, very strong values program, and so all of our relief staff just go, ‘Oh my God, your kids are just so respectful and so amazing’…”

Writing in the latest school newsletter, principal Janine Hall called on Grossbard to ‘take a bow’ in honour of her achievement and thanked her for being a ‘wonderful support’.

“…Children who have had the privilege of being part of Grozzy’s gang are wonderfully blessed!” Hall noted.

“As a curriculum leader, Judi has been a major driver of whole school curriculum and her vast knowledge, experience and expertise have contributed in a very large way to the excellent standards and results of which Gardenvale is so proud,” she added.

At an awards ceremony on Sunday, Victorian Minister for Education Ben Carroll thanked all the recipients for their contribution to education which has spanned multiple generations. 

“Long-serving teachers and support staff are the backbone of our education system. The Victorians being recognised this year have each spent decades tirelessly supporting our children and young people – we are all so grateful for their service,” he said.

“Whether they have taught in classrooms or worked in an office supporting schools, everyone receiving recognition this year has helped us make Victoria the world class education state we are today.” 

Having been effectively poached by the Department’s curriculum and research branch to be a state-wide school science consultant just five years into her teaching career, and later taking up teaching roles at university and as a curriculum writer, Grossbard says she always felt a strong pull back to the primary classroom.

“I asked for a compassionate transfer back to a school because I just missed the kids so much,” she shares.

“Although they’re big kids at university, I missed my little kids. And every time I would be modelling [to uni students], I’d be thinking, ‘why am I not back in the classroom when I love it?’

“And I’ve been back in school ever since.”

In Grossbard’s view, too few teachers are aware of the profound impact they’re having in schools around the country. 

“I think it’s all about collegial support,” she says.

“And one of the things I found, that when I was a consultant and was going out to schools, I would see them with amazing lessons and I’d be blown away.

“When I’d say, ‘You realise you’re in the top 5 per cent of teachers, this is amazing’, they’d go, ‘Really? Do you think so?’

“Most teachers don’t realise what an amazing job they’re doing, what a difference they are making in children’s lives.

“Not just academically, but for the child as a person.”