Kindly Heart

Kate McCann's Long Teaching Career

There are ‘few better loved women’ in Glen Innes, northern NSW, than Miss Kate McCann. As the longest-serving teacher at Glencoe Public School just south of Glen Innes, McCann (also known as Biddy) had a ‘kindly heart’ and ‘sterling character.’

McCann was born in Ireland in 1865 and emigrated to Australia with her family. At a time before women could vote in Australia and their property belonged to their husband after marriage, McCann moved to Tallagandra, near Canberra, at the age of twenty-one to train as a teacher. It was one of the few careers open to women.

McCann trained with Mrs Rosanna McAlister who was the ‘very popular’ and ‘effective’ teacher-in-charge at Tallagandra Public School for thirty years (1876-1906). Perhaps her trainer inspired McCann to dream of a long career educating young minds.

By 1887, McCann was a qualified teacher and received her first appointment to Sapphire Public School, near Inverell. She would have had plenty of time to plan her lessons because the move took several weeks by horse and cart. After two years, McCann was posted to Mt Mitchell Public School, near Glencoe, where she taught for another two years.

By the age of twenty-seven, McCann was promoted for good service and, soon after, appointed as teacher-in-charge of Glencoe Public School. The promotion must have been a dream come true as she took charge of about ninety students at the school.

Through the Federation drought, Great War, invention of cars and aeroplanes, and a revolution in women’s roles, fashions and voting power, McCann remained at the school and ‘radiated a personality which encouraged … the finest traits of human nature.’ She was always ‘one of the most consistent and active participants in teachers’ meetings’, even though she lived twenty kilometres from Glen Innes.

McCann retired in 1926 at the age of sixty-one, after almost thirty years of service. ‘Scores of men and women in [the] … district …[are]… living monuments of her scholastic and moral influence.’ Her portrait is a reminder of the huge impact of a single teacher who dedicates their lives to educate and care for children.