Sydney’s favourite teachers, Miss Leona Sweeney’s favourable mention

Brenden Wood
3 min readApr 16, 2024

Teachers can leave a lasting impact on students, and they can inspire students to further their interests.

Three years after Sydney school teacher Leona Sweeney retired, a former student participated in a segment about ‘favourite school teachers’ on ABC Sydney radio and thanked her for teaching him skills that he was still using 44 years later.

Retired Sydney teacher Miss Leona Sweeney, right, with her nephew Brenden and his wife Kirinee in 2020. Inset: 1970s class photos of Miss Sweeney and her students

Former student ‘Andrew’, who later revealed himself as Andrew Savage, explained to ABC radio host Laura Tchilinguirian that Miss Sweeney taught him at Normanhurst West Primary School in 1976. He was in Year 6, and says he behaved ‘badly’ in her classrooms, but still to this day her grammar teachings are fondly remembered.

Miss Sweeney was an amazing teacher, and I regret being as badly behaved in that class as I was. So many skills I use today I credit her with, not least of which is my great love and ability with grammar”, Andrew Savage told ABC Sydney on Wednesday 30th October 2020.

“She put up a paragraph on the blackboard every morning, and we’d have to punctuate it and write it down with the correct grammar and everything in it.”

Normanhurst West Primary year 6 class of 1976. Andrew Savage is pictured to the far left in the top row. Miss Sweeney is standing in the left of the photo. Credit: Leona Sweeney

Andrew’s phone call to the radio station was heard by Leona’s sister Veronica, who are both my aunties, and for a couple of months the segment was the buzz in our family until we found a copy of the audio.

Listen to Andrew speaking about Miss Sweeney in the ABC radio segment here.

Miss Sweeney’s career

Leona Sweeney was from Hornsby and began her teaching in nearby Normanhurst before teaching for a further 40 years at public and Catholic schools in Blacktown.

During Leona’s career she had no release from face-to-face (RFF) teaching for class preparation.

“There were no teacher assistants or classroom help during those early years of teaching”, said Miss Sweeney after her retirement.

Miss Sweeney at the start of her career — Normanhurst West Primary School year 6 class in 1974

The largest class size Miss Sweeney taught was 36 students.

Notable student

One notable former student of Miss Sweeney’s was Paula Arundell who graduated from NDIA and became an Australian actress, appearing in numerous TV shows and movies including Water Rats, Murder Call, Farscape, All Saints, Home & Away, Out of the Blue and Love My Way.

Leona Sweeney came from a family of educators. Her brother Peter Sweeney was also a well-liked teacher based in Coonabarabran, and her sister Veronica Street was also popular at school in Wyoming on the NSW Central Coast.

Teaching Experience

1973: Hornsby District Relief Teacher School

1974–1976: Normanhurst West Primary School

1977- mid-1977: Blacktown West Primary School

Mid-1977–1999: St Patrick’s Primary School, Blacktown

2000–2017: St Monica’s Primary School North Parramatta (special needs teacher)

Facebook memory

In a Facebook post in April 2024, former student Andrew Savage repeated his appreciation: “Miss Sweeney was the best teacher I had throughout my entire schooling but I was such a badly behaved student. I’ve always wanted to thank her for the way she set me up for life in so many ways (and apologise for being such a brat).”
Thank you

“If you’re out there Miss Sweeney, thank you very much,” Andrew told ABC radio in 2020.

Normanhurst West Primary year 6 class of 1976. Andrew Savage is pictured to the far left in the top row. Miss Sweeney is standing in the left of the photo. Credit: Leona Sweeney

To listen to the segment broadcast on ABC radio Sydney, click on the podcast below.

#LeonaSweeney #Teaching #Sydney

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