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Remembering Carol: teacher, glbti advocate, friend

Fri 30 Sep 2016 In: People View at Wayback View at NDHA

In 2011 when Juliet Leigh and Lindsay Curnow's Northland business Blooming Bulbs was burned to the ground and their home sprayed with anti-lesbian abuse, in a homophobic hate crime for which the perpetrator has never been identified, one of the first to rush to their assistance was long-time friend Carol Bartlett. Carol Bartlett Bartlett, a notable openly-lesbian teacher and queer students' advocate from Auckland, was a long-time friend of Leigh, with the pair sharing a love of fishing amongst other bonds. It was Leigh who was with Bartlett two weeks ago when she suffered a fatal heart attack mid-flight between Vancouver and Auckland as the pair returned from a fishing and family trip. It was Leigh who set up a Give A Little page to help cover expenses not covered by insurance. At Bartlett's funeral service on Wednesday Leigh remembered her closest, dearest friend... OH CAROL!! Friend . . . colleague . . teacher . . . she often warranted a host of exclamation marks! Carol was the buddy everyone might wish for, and more . . indeed we often got more even when we didn't wish . . . I know many of her former students and administrative seniors will identify with that! To describe Carol's impact on us all would probably involve every adjective in the Greater Oxford. Wouldn't she have liked that idea . . and the hyperbole . . . I met Carol in 1990 when she came to teach at Rutherford High School. Her path to that point in her profession had definitely been out of the ordinary, a history she sometimes shared with reluctant learners. In 1975, at the age of 26, when she moved with her husband and two infant daughters to New Zealand, she decided that she, herself, had a opportunity to start again, so she enrolled at Mt Roskill Grammar, and began with School Certificate. Her years of studying, culminated in 1983 with a BA in English and Geography together with a Trained Teachers' Certificate. However, Carol was never one to waste a spare moment - well, that is with the exception of watching cricket and tennis!! From 1977-1981, she interviewed for Heylen Research then became the Sth Auckland Field Manager; she also delivered circulars; got involved in Girl Guides. Carol's teaching career began in 1984 with 4 years at Epsom Girls' Grammar, followed by a further three years at St Cuthbert's College. There she demonstrated a fine example of how far she was prepared to go both for her students and others in need, when she accompanied a school group to India to do volunteer work. At Rutherford High in 1990, our mutual lesbian status drew us together and our mutual passions bound us over the years. Top of the list both at home and school, in all their glory and disarray, were adolescents. If secondary teachers survive in this career, they do tend to become experts in the field. Carol probably clocked up 5 to 6 thousand equivalent years of experience with individual students, both in the classroom and subsequently as a Dean at Henderson High School. An allied passion was teaching those same adolescents how to exult in learning for its own sake, as much as for qualifications. Other issues we shared were the continuing battles for Equality and Equity mainly through active involvement in the Post Primary Teacher's Association. Carol held several PPTA committee positions over the years, including that of Chair at both Rutherford and Henderson. In the early 90s, I well remember her on the other end of a bedsheet that advertised our discontent at the prospect of Bulk Funding of Schools. We had hung it over the Te Atau Motorway Interchange! At Henderson, Carol was on the Board of Trustees as a Staff Rep for years, advocating for her colleagues. Other more personal shared passions included fishing, a fine single malt and pickled onions. I have to admit the two latter were only combined on one memorable occasion Then there was Claire: THAT passion, for her Civil Union partner, endured for the best part of three decades, and is well demonstrated by the inexorable manner in which, over the past year, she bulldozed through the sale of their old house on its huge section which had become a burden for them both. Carol was a born teacher. She taught many subjects over the years as she was always ready to help out when it was necessary: Geography, Liberal Studies, Social Studies, Economic Studies . . . But her passion was English. (What better partner than a journalist and editor!) For Carol, clear expression was a mantra; the enjoyment of the written, oral, filmed or even illustrated word an imperative. She didn't care what kids said behind her back so long as they punctuated and parsed it properly! (Wouldn't she have liked that alliteration!) Many 4th form/Yr 10 students will remember her essay topic: “An Unwanted Gift”. Most teachers would have written it on the blackboard and left it at that, but not Carol. She always hauled a prop along to school that day. The clock was one of a pair gifted to the twins by their parents. Gillian's still hangs on her dining room wall, chirping the quarters and hours; not a mere cuckoo clock, no, but one with British Bird calls . . . Carol's clock however, hooted . . . like the Titanic! Students and colleagues will recall Carol's Great Hunts for stimulating second hand books to stock the English Department's Reading Room during the years when Sustained Silent Reading was a device to focus kids after lunch. The other day, one ex-pupil told me that she often had to carry on with her reading under the desk in the next classes. When Carol wrote her last CV, in 1984, it included: Assistant teacher, English to UB Responsibilty for 3rd form/ Yr 9 English Responsibility for reading across the school Responsibilty for the Reading Room Chair of the Library Committee Member of the Professional Development Committee Member of the Sexual Harassment Committee Branch Chair of the PPTA Fundraiser. She had had to write that CV as, true to her integrity, she offered to take redundancy in the face of a falling roll on the principle of being last hired. Maybe she was ready to move on? Whatever, we friends at Rutherford were not able to dissuade her. To cover bases though, she became an Amway distributor then. l-r: Carol Bartlett, Juliet Leigh and Bartlett's twin sister Gillian She was not content to leave it there after she was appointed to Henderson High, and in April, 2004, at the age of 55 she graduated with a Masters in Educational Administration. This gave her extra clout in many of her legendary epic battles on educational issues with other strong personalities . . . Carol was never one to resile from a good stoush for any cause she deemed worthy. As a passionate worker for equality and equity, she could not help but be a Labour Party member, and in that capacity she worked hard to help Chris Carter, a former teaching colleague, secure the Te Atatu Parliamentary Seat in 1993, and then again in 1999. She obviously thought she had time to fill in the mid-2000's, as she became a volunteer for the Refugee and Migrant Service and ended up working closely with a Somalian woman and her daughter for over a year. Of course she ensured that the mother was enrolled in an English Course! Carol must also hold a New Zealand, if not world record, too, as the only 65 year old woman to be concussed in a rugby incident! Even while she was recovering from her concussion, unable to concentrate at any length, she offered her services to Owairaka Primary school as a reading aide, quickly becoming a favourite with many small persons there. I was privileged to share Carol's last fishing trip, and I can assure you that many outstanding boxes were ticked for her: the biggest fish ever, a 35+ kg halibut, as well as salmon, sole, lingcod; precious time with her WombMate; renewal of acquaintances and the making of new - especially random pooches; fabulous photo opportunities in some of the world's most spectacular scenery; and even giving her twin Gillian a run for Canasta stakes in an epic session that went past 1am, then was resumed after breakfast. I think they declared it a draw. On our flight home, I was humbled by Carol's bravery; every small respite she got was indicated with a "thumbs up". Even in hospital, hooked up to machines and unable to speak, she wrote: “I always wanted to come to Honolulu!” OH CAROL: WARRIOR WOMAN Ceaselessly cheerful friend and confidante to so many of us . . . YOU KNEW WHAT REALLY MATTERED. - Juliet Leigh     Juliet Leigh - 30th September 2016

Credit: Juliet Leigh

First published: Friday, 30th September 2016 - 1:34pm

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