Interview with Mrs Rosalie Merchant


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(Right) Mrs Merchant with long time friend, Mrs DA Silva (Left)

Interviewed by Shanice C

Mrs Merchant, the Bally enthusiast, the loud Italian singing teacher who everyone has grown to love, is a very important member of the Nagle College family. She has taught here for many years, and her unconditional love for this school has brought her lot’s of recognition and love from not only students, but also teachers. Being a student of Mrs Merchant for the past two years, I already had some brief background knowledge about her. However, as we sat down for this interview, I was able to discuss and learn much more about Mrs Merchant and her thoughts as a proud member of the Nagle College Community.

Mrs Merchant, I know you migrated from Italy to Australia.- How long have you lived here and did you always live in the Blacktown area

I came back to Australia when I was seven years of age and no, I didn’t grow up in Blacktown. I grew up in a suburb called Belfield which is near Burwood, Lakemba and Strathfield… - sort of near the inner west.

Do you have any siblings?

I have a sister who is 10 years younger than me.

You mentioned you returned to Australia when you were 7 years of age.- What motivated you and your family in returning?

I was born here and when I was three my parents decided to migrate to Italy, then things didn’t quite work out and my mum and dad decided to come back to Australia.

Would you ever consider moving back to Italy permanently?

No, Australia is definitely my home, I really do like to visit Italy but because i have a lot of my relatives, cousins and family there. -But no i’ll definitely call Australia home.

When did you start teaching at Nagle and how long have you been teaching?

Well, I started teaching at Nagle in 1991... and I’ve been here for 24 years. It’s a long time to stay at one school, but I've enjoyed this school so that why I never want to move.

What did you think of Nagle when you first came? Were there any hardships?

What I thought of Nagle was it was…. yes quite a different... school, it was only girls and… it was actually a little gem hidden away. it was difficult because it was only 7 to 10 in that respect...the girls were wonderful and yeah we did have some rat bags but the majority of the girls were absolutely wonderful.

Have you taught any fellow staff members or even parents?

Yes, I have taught some teachers on staff and I’ve taught some parents. Now I am teaching the daughters of ex-students that taught many years ago. It’s quite nice to see the parents wanting to send their daughters back to their school.

How dramatically has Nagle changed over those years you’ve taught?

Nagle has changed quite a quite a bit; of course the buildings have changed. The courses we offer have changed and the teaching staff has gotten bigger. But it is still very much a family, it;s still very much a school where people feel comfortable to come to, and it has a very much family oriented personality and it’s still here, still evident from when i started working here, when the sister were here.

Are there any fellow colleagues you were working with when you first began teaching at this school?

Yes, there is quite a few now, Mrs Da Silva, Mrs Foley and Mrs Tillman, we’re still the originals. they have been here a lot longer than i have 1-2 years longer than I have. it’s a pleasure to work alongside these people, I consider them my friends… and i have made many friends throughout my years here.... I guess that's one of the why I never wanted to leave, because I really value my friends.

Recalling back to the first question about you originating from Italy, do you speak any other languages besides Italian and English?

Yes- I do. My first language was actually Venetian, the dialect we speak around the Venetian area in northern Italy. I speak Italian and French and I understand Spanish and English of course

Was there ever a One Direction like band that you obsessed or loved when you were younger?

Yes! The original ABBA band… actually they were very famous in Australia in 1973 to 1974 in Australia and I was one of the biggest fans. I think my mother still has my posters in her garage and I also have all their records.

Do you have any funny or even embarrassing moments you’ve either seen or had at Nagle?

I have many, especially in the classroom, the students know that I’m a bit crazy and I often break out into song in the classroom to get the students’ attention. There have been many embarrassing moments but I always laugh them off human and the students’ know that im human and i make mistakes and I tend to laugh things off so, it's wonderful and the girls laugh with me hopefully they don't laugh at’s been fun, i love teaching in my classes, and it’s great fun.

From one Bally teammate to another, please tell me about Bally’s winning streak and how long have you supported Bally?

I’ve supported Bally since I first started here, it wasn’t always called Bally it was originally called the green team.

Even though Bally has not always been at the top, Do you still consider Bally the best team?

Yes they are the Best team. Just because they don’t win carnivals doesn’t mean they're not the best team. I would never ever leave Bally, ever!

Have some rules changed in this school? Were there always lockers?

The rules are basically haven’t changed and yes, we always had lockers. We had smaller brown ones for something like 30 years.But you guys are lucky because you’ve got the beautiful big blue ones.

What are your thoughts on Nano Nagle.- Does she hold significance in your life?

Nano Nagle was a feisty, strong Irish woman and I have learned a lot about her since my employment here. She still does have an impression on me because she was a woman who was brave enough to stand up for what she believed in and that her family motto ‘in deed not just word’ is a pretty strong one. I think and i hope and pray that her charism will continue here for many years.

Seeing as you’ve taught lot’s of students in the past, What stage or year would you consider is your favourite to teach?

Well… that is a hard question to answer because I teach predominantly stages 4 and 5. I haven’t had some senior classes for a few years and so I basically know the year 7 and 8’s quite well. I wouldn’t say any of them are my favourites.

Have there been any previous principals you have worked with before Mrs Horan started?

I’ve worked with Sister Margarite, Mr Rido, Miss Meadows, Mrs Leask and Mrs Horan... they’re all different! They bring different experience, different outlooks and different personalities to the school.

We all know how much you adore this school.- What motivated you into staying all those years?

I think it’s the Catholic faith that is embedded into this school.- I also think the caring personality of this school..-in many regards I can see it in the relationships the students have with the teachers and the teachers with the students. It’s very special.

Would you say you learn more from the students?

Oh yes, every day I learn something new about the students, their backgrounds, their families and the connection forms. That’s very important to me to learn about students’-, as people…, growing up, their hopes and fears and showing their little personalities, gifts and talents... I think I learn more from the students than I actually teach.

What do you like to do outside the school?

Outside of the school, i like gardening, i like learning other languages, i like embroidering- cross stitching, i like cooking, i like eating it’s one of my favourite things to do…- Yes i like learning about other cultures and how other people live and how other people communicate in different languages.

What do you plan on doing for the 50th anniversary of Nagle College?

I’m part of the committee, and I plan on going to the Saturday dinner that were gonna have and the mass. There are a lot of things in the background that were actually doing to prepare for that and I’m involved with some of those things. So, it’s good to see that for half the life of the school, I’ve been here. - It’s very special to me and Hopefully I’ve been able to contribute something worthwhile to this school.