It is 19 years since Teneal Russell arrived in Port Hedland from Perth, leaving the airport to see palm trees and thinking she had moved to a tropical location.
She and husband, Brett, arrived in 2003, with Teneal to start work as a graduate physical education teacher at Hedland Senior High School.
Much has changed in Port Hedland since then, and in that time the town has provided work opportunities not necessarily available in Perth and a perfect location for them to indulge their love of the great outdoors.
Teneal acknowledges that there is much more housing — but there could be more — and the size of the port has grown considerably.
“Every time we go boating in the harbour, I’m amazed how many berths there are now compared to when we first arrived,” Teneal said.
“When I arrived in town, I remember looking at the palm trees coming out of the airport and thinking, ‘this is going to be a tropical place to live’.
“Then I drove further through the town and realised it wasn’t, but there were no second thoughts because I wanted an adventure close to the beach.
“Once I met the people of the town, I felt welcomed and a part of the Hedland community — and it is why we have stayed all these years.”
Brett now works as a skipper for North West Tug Management, having first worked on a fishing boat when he arrived in town.
Their children, Tayla, and Riley are in year 12 and nine respectively at Hedland Senior High School.
“Having them stay and attend Hedland Senior High School for schooling has always been a given,” Teneal said.
“There are plenty of opportunities through School Based Traineeships and alternative pathways to university — and all their friends are here as well.”
As a physical education teacher, it should come as no surprise that Teneal quickly joined the local netball association — but her involvement went beyond just playing.
“I joined the Port Hedland Netball Association, playing in their A grade comp since 2003,” Teneal said.
“After I had my kids, I joined the committee and held roles such as the Net Set Go Coordinator and Association Development officer, now I am advance accredited coach and run Foundation, Development and Intermediate Netball Coaching Courses in the Pilbara.”
Teneal says her professional development at Hedland Senior High School has benefited from the breadth of opportunities that are more readily available in regional schools compared with the metropolitan area.
“I have worked in various roles within the high school from health and PE teacher to librarian, student services manager and Head of Learning for Humanities and Social Sciences,” said Teneal, who is currently the Vocational Education and Training Coordinator.
“Working in regional schools there are more opportunities for teachers to gain leadership roles compared to city schools.
“What I love about the school — and why I stay — is the colleagues that I work with and the positive relationships I make with the students.
“I especially love it when I’m out and see students I used to teach. They say hello and we reminisce about the good ol’ days.
“I’m a local and at this stage we are planning on staying at least until my kids finish high school here.”
For Teneal, the benefits of Port Hedland are, in equal measure, the satisfaction of her job, the friends she has made and the natural beauty and “get away” spots of the region.
A perfect weekend includes camping near a waterway or beach for a couple of nights in winter with the swags, the family, and a fire.
“I’ve always loved these activities and my favourite spot to camp is on any beach in the Pilbara,” she said.
Just as it has over the past 19 years for work, education and pleasure, Port Hedland can provide opportunities — this time for a perfect beach break.
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