On her 100th birthday on 30 May, Thelma Spicer is again being honoured for her enormous contribution to the education of deaf children, including her vital role in establishing the Princess Elizabeth Kindergarten.
In 1976, Thelma retired from her position as Principal of the kindergarten after 42 years working for the Victorian School for Deaf Children, as it was then known. Over 700 people were present for the farewell with people coming from all over Victoria.
Thelma began teaching at the VSDC (which was then part of our organisation) in 1934. She resigned in 1942 to enlist in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. When the war ended, she held the rank of Section Officer. Thelma returned to the school in 1946 and in 1948, she went to the Central Institute for the Deaf in the USA to study “nursery school training” for deaf children for a year. Soon after her return, she was appointed as the first Directress of the Princess Elizabeth Kindergarten when it opened in 1950. She was reappointed as Principal when the Education Department assumed responsibility for paying and training Pre-school teachers of deaf children in 1958. In 1957, she took up residence at Burwood and she remained as Resident Principal until her retirement.
She devoted so much of her life to the education of deaf children and as the Victorian School for Deaf Children 1978 Annual Report stated, Thelma ‘established a reputation which was recognised throughout Australia and the world. She was honoured by her Majesty the Queen in 1953 when she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire’. Queen Elizabeth even visited the kindergarten and the school.
Thelma’s sister Olive told us, “Thelma just loved her work, and especially all the little children at the kindergarten. They sent her overseas visiting four other deaf schools in America, Europe and London to learn more about deaf education. Thelma started with seven pupils in the kinder and had up to 100 at the end. On Sunday, we are giving her a party and some of her former young pupils are coming – which will mean so much to her.”
Happy birthday Thelma. Thank you for giving so much guidance to so many deaf children over all those years.