Schools Vale Louise Chocholis: a champion of the school library

Photos: Supplied

Brunswick South West Primary School has renamed its school library in honour of their one-of-a kind former principal, who saw the library as the centre of the school. 

The school community at Brunswick South West Primary has renamed their school library in honour of former principal, Louise Chocholis, who retired in 2017 after 24 years as principal. Louise, who passed away a few months after retirement, was an avid reader and a great thinker with an enquiring mind.

Colleague and friend Brigid McCaughey remembers her fondly. “Louise had an innate hunger for learning. She believed the library was the core of the school, the centre of where the learning comes from and goes to. It was at a time when a lot of schools were closing their libraries, using them as classrooms.”

This is during the years of the Kennett state government, which closed 350 public schools in the 1990s.

Author Leigh Hobbs, with teacher-librarian Jacinta Dimase, visits ‘Louise’s library’ at Brunswick South West PS. Photo: Supplied

“She didn’t downsize and save money on the library. She just thought it was robbing Peter to pay Paul, because the library is the most important thing. She always made sure there was a teacher librarian in there.” They would hold school events in the library so that students and families were familiar with the building and it never fell into disuse.

Brigid was school council president when they selected Louise as the principal. It was Louise’s first principal position, and her commitment to state education was foremost in her application.

“She led by example, and she would say if you weren’t prepared to stop work then you’d have to run the school!”

“She was a very strong unionist. For most of her tenure as principal, 100% of the staff were union members. Whenever there was a stopwork action, she would stop and encourage others to do the same. She led by example, and she would say if you weren’t prepared to stop work then you’d have to run the school! She always sought advice from the union. It was a deep-seated thing in her, unionism.”

Brigid describes Louise as “a visionary”.

“She read a lot, researched new ideas before trialling new programs. And she was a very quirky person with a good sense of humour. She didn’t take herself too seriously. I can remember she was genuflecting to the office manager once because she wanted her to do something for her!”

When Brigid took time away from teaching to have three children – along with becoming school council president – Louise saw an opening for her to do Reading Recovery training. “I did it for a year and it got me back into the swing of work, and then I carried on with it for 14 years, working alongside her. She was supportive of the program and of me struggling to get back into teaching.”

The many faces of Louise. Photos: Supplied

Louise was also committed to Indigenous rights, organising for the students to watch Rudd’s Apology speech and refusing to fly the Australian flag. There was only one flagpole in the playground – and she used it to fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag, Brigid says.

“Louise was very child-centred. The kids always came first. She was a great talker, she always gave them her time. She used to get cross about private schools getting public funding because she thought that was just so wrong. She gave a speech at the Grade 6 graduation night and she never failed to talk about state education and how important it is in a healthy democracy.”

Another colleague, Kim Wise, affectionately recalls: “Louise was such a stanch unionist. I can recall her shutting the school and joining us in stopwork action in full red regalia. I also remember when the AIM test started, Louise joined teachers outside the school gates, providing information to parents about the problems with such testing. Louise was not prepared to see students simply as a data set, but rather whole people who needed to be nurtured, taught, and given enriching experiences in order to learn. She was certainly one of the good ones.”

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