Since she was a young girl, Ms O’Sullivan knew she wanted to be a teacher. Originally from near Roma, in south-west Queensland, she completed her primary school education through The Queensland Correspondence School, where paper lessons would arrive by truck and were sent back for marking via Australia Post. When she wasn’t busy helping out on the family’s sheep and cattle property, Jan could be found in the laundry teaching an imaginary class with a piece of fibro board and a stick of coloured chalk.
‘I remember when I was 10 years old living at home with my parents—my older siblings were at boarding school—and I couldn’t wait to move to the city. I made a pact with myself then, that I’d have a career in the city and travel the world when I was older.
After completing her Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma in Education at The University of Queensland on a Teachers’ Scholarship, Jan was expecting to commit to four years’ rural service. However, when the scholarship criteria was abandoned, she was delighted by the prospect of achieving her childhood dream of living and working in the city. Jan commenced teaching at BGGS in 1978 after teaching English and Economics for a year at Roma State College.
‘I had always wanted to teach at BGGS. I admired the School and was well aware of its reputation as a leader in exceptional scholarship. My grandmother, Grace Watt, attended Girls Grammar in the 1890s and whenever someone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would reply “I want to be a teacher like Granny Grace”’.
Although she was working as an English and Drama teacher, Jan had studied a double major of Psychology, and was eager to apply her learnings in the Student Care field.
Jan was offered the position of Year 8 Level Supervisor in her second year at the School and continued in this role until 1990, when the vertical House system was introduced and she was appointed Head of Griffith House.
‘During the past 30 years, the combination of teaching English and caring for our Griffith girls has been the perfect role for me. Guiding girls through their five, now six years of secondary school, has been a great privilege.
‘Working with adolescent girls has kept me young and inspired—girls are always filled with enthusiasm and new ideas. I’ve also learned the importance of authentic communication with our girls. Students look up to their teachers and it’s important that we also set an example.’
Jan has lost count of the number of girls she has educated during her time at BGGS, teaching generations of Grammar girls over the years.
‘Caring for daughters of girls I have taught is particularly special, but I often joked I needed to retire before I started teaching their granddaughters, and that time has come!’
Griffith House Captains, Poppy Prance (12R) and Annabelle Treacy (12R), said Ms O’Sullivan will be dearly missed by the BGGS community.
‘Ms O’Sullivan has had a long-lasting impact on not only Griffith House, but the whole school. As House Captains, we are saddened by her departure, but are so excited for her knowing the joy and relaxation that retirement holds.’
Driven by her commitment to education and the wellbeing of our girls, Jan’s impact on the School is immeasurable. We honour her contribution to Girls Grammar and we wish her every happiness for a wonderful retirement.