Community & Business

27 August, 2023

Beloved principal departs school life

STEPPING up to the top role as principal in 2020 after several years as a deputy, head of department and teacher, Hannah Simpson has watched Mareeba State School grow, evolve and change.

By Ellie Fink

Beloved principal departs school life - feature photo

But at the end of this term, she will be leaving to focus on her family and  health after being diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease. 

Mrs Simpson came on to the education scene 15 years ago as a Grade six teacher before stepping up as a head of department and then deputy principal. 

After a brief stint as acting principal at Atherton State Primary School, she was called back to Mareeba to begin her dream job as principal. 

“I guess you could say (being a principal) is in my genetics and that is why I decided to become a teacher and work within the education department,” she said. 

“My mum was a school principal so it was something that I grew up with and I have a cousin who is also in the education space.

“I loved the idea of teaching people and working with children and I have done a variety of sectors like preschool right through to Grade 12 in my career.”

In her time in education, Mrs Simpson has won a NeiTA Teaching Award for her achievements as a teacher and travelled to Brisbane with previous principal, Mandy Whybird, to showcase at Foundations for Success. 

The school’s popular Auslan choir has also been showcased several times throughout her time as principal, with Mareeba State School becoming the home in Far North Queensland for Auslan students.

More recently, Mrs Simpson was a  driving force in developing Brady Park into the school oval with construction set be completed by Term 4 this year.

When taking on the role of principal, Mrs Simpson also had to endure the impacts of Covid, changing the lives of many students, staff and parents as they adapted to the new ways of online learning. 

“We did get hit with Covid in 2020 and we managed to keep the ship sailing and keep our students learning and our staff safe which was really important,” she said. 

When Mrs Simpson was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease, she was concerned of the impacts it would have on her professional and personal life. 

As her kids Georgia and Jake grow up, she hopes that alongside her husband Ted, they can travel and enjoy time together. 

The decision to leave Mareeba State School was one that didn’t come easy for Mrs Simpson, but it was essential for her health. 

“It’s been a decision filled with lots of heartache and lots of ups and downs in terms of pros and cons for both myself and my health,” she said. 

“I’ve had to make the decision to put myself and my time with my family first and whilst I feel selfish about that and it’s probably something I wouldn’t have done. 

“I thought I would be here well into my 60s with my grey hair doing what I love. 

“Unfortunately having that diagnosis and having to live with the disease is something I have been facing for a number of years now.

“So, moving forward, that I will be doing but that doesn’t mean I won’t be supporter of the education space. Where I can, I will definitely be volunteering and popping my head in but for now, it’s family first.

“Who knows, I might write a book one day or do something amazing! I’m sure you haven’t seen the last of Hannah Simpson.”

Mrs Simpson will finish at Mareeba State School at the end of this term.


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