Carrying on Don’s Legacy 

THE recent loss of Cootamundra High School teacher Don McLeod was felt by the wider community from its very foundations.
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Whether it was instructing kids on the finer points of drama or speaking at Rotary meetings, Don was committed to serving Cootamundra in any way he could.

His kindness and generosity was not kept exclusively in his home town but also touched people across the globe in India where he visited earlier this year with his wife Margaret.

Don was instrumental in not only raising money for a High School in India but also contributing to the cultural knowledge of his own students by organising a trip to the school itself.

The India Immersion trip 2014 will incorporate drama students from Cootamundra High School who, by furthering the foundation left by Don, will be bringing his vision into fruition.

Colleague Dr Lynne Vey said Don’s level of involvement in the project was inspiring.

“Don’s idea of a cultural immersion was to provide an experience of another culture which is deeper than that of an ordinary tourist,” she said.

“His legacy will live on in this India Immersion Trip as the old adage ‘to teach is to change a life forever’.”

The proposed itinerary is for 21 days – departing Sydney 31st December 2013 and return to Sydney 20th January 2014.

Highlights of the tour will be a trip to Mother’s Teresa’s House in Kolkata (Calcutta), a visit to the Taj Mahal, but more importantly make connections and developing relationships with the schools in Trichy and the opportunity for the students of Cootamundra High School, teachers and parents to work with the students.

Each school in Trichy has about 1700 students and they are run by the Marist Brothers. All the students are sons and daughters of tenant farmers who just about exist through hard work to keep rich landowners (from the north) rich. Most of the students are Hindus (96%) and the rest are Christian.

All the students are interested in learning English because it is their only passport out of Tamil Nadu and a job with the government.

While education is of the upmost importance to them classes are large, there are very few facilities to assist their learning. A good deal of the funding for the two schools comes through the Marist Brothers, from Australia.

Last Year the Year 10 Drama class at Cootamundra High teamed up with Rotary and proceeds from the evening was used to buy four new computers for P.U school in India, a gift they have put to good use.

Some of that class have also written to students at P.U.

Dr Vey said the whole idea of the India immersion trip was to give his students the opportunity to feel what he felt when he visited the school.

“Don’s aim was to make the trip open to Year 11 Drama students, who then would come back to Cootamundra High School and like he was, overcome with a passion to do more and make the event an annual one,” she said

The students are keen to ensure it becomes an annual event to keep Don’s dream alive.”

It is not the first time Don has orchestrated a trip within the school with drama students benefiting from trips to Sydney where they saw productions such as Jersey Boys and The Wizard of Oz.

Such was Don’s dedication to his subject that, on an occasion where he was forced to wait two hours for a train in Sydney, he spent the time writing a monologue for one of his students.

His hard work within the role is reflected by the fact the HSC results achieved by his students were always higher than the state average.

Year 12 student Chris Warren, who will be travelling to India, said Don always made his students realise their full potential.

“He was very empowering to everyone who he taught,” he said.

“When I was having trouble with drama, he took me aside and said ‘Chris you have a mindset that you can’t do stuff but you can do anything you want to do.’ He was very academic and a very inspiring person to be around.”

See page 3 for information on Cootamundra High School’s drama night.

HEADING TO INDIA: pictured (from left) are Cootamundra High School students Chris Warren, Ariah Holmes and Cassie Giles. The students will head to India as part of a cultural immersion trip organised by the late Don McLeod.

INSPIRATION: Don is pictured with students from the P.U. School at Trichy. It was from his visit in January 2013, that he decided to offer his concept of an Indian Immersion Trip to his Drama students.

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