I am indebted to all my teachers for their persistence, patience encouragement and wisdom but to one in particular. Mrs Oldfield from Allenton Primary in Ashburton.
My entire school life from age four and a half was at Baradene College in Auckland , although in those days it was known Sacre Coeur. Virtually all the teachers were nuns and as a “closed order” they barely ever ventured outside of the school gates. In spite of this they were a savvy, well connected and in my view inspirational. I struggled as the years went on with some of the conformity, but at the same time got huge academic encouragement which was a bit rare in those days. Aside from visiting priests it was obviously a very female dominated world and I grew to believe that women simply could do everything, and within the school grounds, they did! Whenever any old girls get together we end up talking about Mother Maher, who was an authoritarian of whom we were all terrified but extraordinarily compassionate and astute. Eventually as the nuns spent more time in the outside world, she became a social worker. An extraordinary woman who crossed many boundaries in her life and did make me believe in the impossible.
Hirini encouraged me to write songs even though I couldn’t play a musical instrument, saying my voice was my instrument.
He taught me about the esoteric realm of Raukatauri which was to inspire the naming of my daughter and the eventual establishment of the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre helping children with special needs through the power of music. I feel incredibly privileged to have had him as my lecturer.
It was kind of weird having your Dad as Headmaster of your primary school but you never went easy on me, in fact you were always much tougher. You’d pull me into line when I was playing up but also encouraged me to be creative make a career out of something I loved – even if you thought a broadcasting degree “wasn’t a proper degree”! Also I have to pick you for my inspirational teacher as you’re the only teacher I still catch up with, so it’d be really awkward at Christmas if I didn’t.
Mr Weal brought education to life and gave me a strong interest in what I call the Kiwi-isation of our Society. Everything he taught he applied to the modern NZ situation – he made learning real so you could understand and identify with it. He would skip his own lunch hour to give support and assistance to those that needed & was very generous in giving his time.
Anaru Takurua was a demi-god in tha haka world.
He was a staunch advocate of things Māori and encouraged us all to cleave to Māoritanga as a pathway for our future.
He inculcated in me a sense of self and pride in Māori language and culture. He enshrined in us a love of our school, its traditions and the feats of the alumni. He also encouraged us to repay Māoridom for all the opportunites given to us through Te Aute College, by working for the betterment of Māori communities in all that we did.
Anaru Takurua passed away in 2002. I will never forget the impact he had on me and my life.
We were all a bit scared of you, but you made a big difference to me. I was struggling. You worked out how to get me going. You got me doing school projects. I would get a scrapbook, research a subject and fill it up with information.
I learned to use the library to research. Somehow it helped me catch up with the others. It is the first memory I have of achieving at school.
In my 6th form there was a new history teacher, Guy Bliss. He devoted the first two classes to two simple messages if you want to enjoy a successful life, which he periodically reinforced. The first was that absolutely everything is interesting and the second, be curious and never be afraid to say you don’t understand and thus to ask questions. Looking back over near six decades since I believe that applying those two maxims has served me superbly and underlie any successes I have had.
Mr Elgar was out teacher, young and fresh – really quite cool as I remember. A skinny knitted tie and suede desert boots. He kept us engaged and interested in learning. No surprises, his students learnt the meaning of achievement. The class has been very successful, amongst them the youngest (at the time!) 747 pilot and my friend Peter Waddell, an extremely successful artist living in Washington DC.
(Photo accredited to AWW/Jae Frew)
In pursuing an Outdoor & Environmental Education teaching certificate, I was fortunate to be under the tutelage of Colin Mortlock. Colin believes that a traditional classroom education will never enable a child to fulfil their potential and that by utilising adventure as a critical part of the curriculum a child develops emotional, physical and cognitive skills in a balanced way. Whilst I never went on to teach, Colin gave me a perspective to balance in life that I have tried to retain through life’s journey and my career in tourism.
Whangarei Intermediate School was a very sporty school and you were the music teacher and played the violin very nicely. Even if you thought of playing the violin there – you were a sissy but I loved the sound of it and I used to sit outside your room while you played and decided to take it up. As a result, music has been with me all my life.
He was strict, had high math knowledge, loved his subject and made it his aim that all of us shared this dedication. He saw something in me I did not see – I could do math! He made it make sense, he made us work so hard to mastery the material, and never let up in his conviction that I could do well. It opened many doors for my subsequent career. Thanks. As did Mr McNeil (Tahuna Intermediate) who saw raw material, persisted, taught, encouraged, modelled and showed me how to teach.
Inspirational for me was the late David Parker, my fifth form ‘form teacher’ at Auckland Grammar School in 1963. He made Shakespeare palatable and with his keen sense of observation and a cutting lucid wit every lesson was an exercise in sheer bliss for me. He knew exactly how to deal with a bunch of extroverted hormonal teenage louts and used humour to gain our attention and total respect. We had Mr. Parker for the first period every Monday morning, a hideous start to any teacher’s week as most of us were not the slightest bit interested in adjusting to pouring over textbooks. He addressed us in the same fashion every Monday morning.
“All right lads, I humbly suggest you refrain from boring each other with overblown mythical accounts of your weekend sexual exploits and let us attend to the reality at hand — the desperate search for meaning in the glories of English literature.”
Baron Anton Welleman von Simunic was Head of Modern Languages at ‘Inst’ my secondary school in Belfast. He arrived each morning wearing a forest green cloak, lined in crimson and carrying a swordstick. He claimed to have been personal tutor to the Queen. He once laid a bet for sixpence with the school’s 1200 pupils that he would arrive next day on a white horse in a full set of armour, his winnings to go to the RAF Benevolent Fund. The Board vetoed the idea, but we all paid up anyway. ‘The Baron’ inspired my life-long love of language and my admiration of eccentricity.
Dear Brian, There are not enough words to express my gratitude to you for the wonderful and inspirational guidance you gave to my four sons and all the other students who have attended Tauranga Intermediate. You have this magical way of encouraging and supporting kids to explore their potential. You shower them with praise when they deserve it, and give them a gentle reminder to pull their socks up when they need that too! You love competition, you embrace excellence, you believe in all children and their ability to succeed. For two years each of my four sons enjoyed going to school. That says it all!
My favourite teacher was a guy called Tom Gerrard. Tom became headmaster of Rosmini College in my last (7th Form) year there, 1976. He is still principal of Rosmini, 38 years later (the longest serving principal in NZ currently).
Tom, you always were a wee bit of a larrikin, a rebel. You loved a drink, a bet at the TAB, and pretty women – not your standard Catholic school headmaster role model! But you have a priceless gift for recognising raw potential and encouraging those, like me, who were lazy, distracted, but had some sort of inner desire to do something with our lives. You inspired me in 1976 and, throughout our long friendship since, you have continued to do so. I salute you.
Yvonne had that rare ability to be tough but still respected and really well liked. She taught me accounting in the 7th form and she showed me the value of a strong work ethic: you did not want to turn up to class without having done your homework! Yvonne is someone who I keep in contact with even today.
It’s a gift to be taught by someone with a great passion. You were relentlessly enthusiastic which was both encouraging and inspiring.
I am thankful for having you as my drama teacher because you pushed me and showed faith in my talent (which sadly didn’t involve singing) but with that early support in my life it’s enabled me to pursue my own passion.
Picking my favourite teacher was easy. Your relaxed and entertaining approach to teaching made your classes fun and inspiring.
I am constantly grateful that I had the help of you and so many other fantastic teachers.
Thank you, not just from me, but from all those you have inspired throughout the years.
It’s probably unusual for someone to talk about their first teacher as an important influence, but as a five year old at St Margaret’s I was ill for quite some time, my teacher, Miss Thomas rode her bike with basket on the front, a very long way to our home, to bring school work to me so that I wouldn’t fall behind. I always looked forward to her next visit, and the upshot was getting through the primmer classes in one year instead of two. Much later in life, I had the huge privilege of working with one of our best educators, Claudia Wysocki, who was Principal of St Margaret’s College the entire ten years I was Chairman of the Board. Her attitude to the girls, her staff and all who surrounded her was totally inspiring, and whilst we supported each other in our work, I enjoyed and learnt so much about both education and life from her.
My most inspirational teacher was L C M Saunders because at the age of 12/13 he set me on the way to having an intense interest in and involvement with music which lead in turn to my enjoying and appreciating other disciplines of the arts. From that early age he introduced us to and had us participating in great choral music in particular. (Weekly anthems in Chapel and annually a truncated version of the Messiah and of St Matthew’s Passion as well as a Gilbert and Sullivan musical or the equivalent.)
His ability to motivate and excite made him a most influential choir master and left many of us with a lasting legacy. This is attested to by the Charitable Trust a number of us set up in his name for ongoing choral scholarships at the Holy Trinity Cathedral. That he was a very knowledgeable musician is demonstrated by the fact that, amongst other things, he was the New Zealand Herald’s music critic for decades.
Shona Murray has always been more than just a teacher to me. She has been a mentor, a friend, and like family to me. One of the greatest things I learnt from her was perseverance. As a performer it is easy to become discouraged or to make excuses about why you can’t do something – Shona helped me to learn that no matter what happens, on stage or off, with determination and a positive attitude you can always create something beautiful. She made me see the potential in each person and each situation. Working with Shona, I could see that she always values people’s talents and seeks to nurture them and help them grow. I love how she always says you should do your best whether performing for 1 person or 1000 – each performance you give is precious. Sometimes I was challenged by her or made to go outside of my comfort zone, but I think it was those times that really helped me to develop. There’s so much more I could say but I think it would turn into a novel!
During the early 1970’s I was a promising young fast bowler who had potential but was failing to achieve what was expected. I had long admired Australian fast bowler, Dennis Lillee (355 test wickets) who epitomized what fast bowling was all about. He was big, strong, fit, confident and aggressive with a marvellous bowling technique and wonderful skills (pace, swing and seam). He had a presence on the field – he was an enforcer who intimidated the opposing batsmen. In simple terms he was impressive and successful – arguably the greatest fast bowler of all time. In my contacts with him both on and off the field I learned a lot about his preparation and how he analysed the batsman to get them out. He was the role model who inspired me to greater success. If I wanted emulate what he achieved I needed to make big changes to my fitness program, technique and the psychology of bowling. I later surpassed all his records to become the first bowler in test history to capture 400 test wickets.
Miss Robinson inspired me to see science as something we should be all doing because it was about everything. She let us do all these experiments such as the opportunity to find out what happened when you mixed certain chemicals – it just really grabbed me. She gave you the belief that you could do things. She encouraged you to believe that you could and so you wanted to. You wanted to participate , to be one of the ones that understood and can make it all work. I really liked her and because I liked her I really enjoyed science.
I am a ‘coloured South African’ who moved to New Zealand. I want to contribute my story to this site. As a child I the social-political system told me that I was inferior! The evidence was all around me – the poverty, the disdain, the media, the poor school facilities, the written curriculum
I was told where I could live, the school I could attend, the railway carriage I was allowed to sit in, where my place was on the bus, where I should queue at the post office, which beach or park was for me, the job reserved for my supposed limited intellect, how much I was entitled to be paid, who I was to associate and fall in love with…and above all…the evidence was the colour of my skin! But my teachers told me differently Teachers showed me that Education could free me, could give me power, could give me knowledge and understanding – that no one could take away. Teachers taught me that Education could unshackle my thinking, and lead me to believe that I was equal to anyone else. Teachers got me to realise that those who said the opposite were wrong, were deceived, were fearful, were in need of help!
My teachers made the difference. My teachers put on the line -their livelihood, their reputation, their careers, their freedom, their families, their lives to share the truth - So that we could be fre.e
A Luta Continua! (this struggle still continues)
Amandla Awethu! (the power is with the people)
As I said at your recent funeral, you were an inspirational teacher. You had a unique ability to generate excitement and knowledge from a capacious store house of stories and an equally capacious sense of humour. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think back to the pure enjoyment of your classroom.
I was inspired by you because you are such a positive person. At school I really admired you and learned from your ability to be so positive and strong no matter how hard the decisions were. I will be eternally grateful for the moment where you believed in me and told me to take the harder but better path when I could have gone the wrong way. Your belief in me gave me confidence at a really important time of my life. I think life would be very different if that moment of belief had not happened. I often reflect on that particularly when young people come to me for advice and help. Thank you.
Thanks for teaching outside the square – you gave me HOPE! It gave me the confidence to believe in myself, to go out into the workforce and have a go. Because of that I found the will to fight against the odds and created the Mad Butcher- so thank you for having faith in me.
Dear Nigel, I was inspired by you because you believed in me, you never gave up and you seemed to genuinely like teenagers. Let’s be honest, I was a very challenging student and due to reasons too complex to go into here often went out of my way to make life difficult for my teachers. But you saw through that and took time to get to know me. You encouraged my love of speech and drama and often told me that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. I have always appreciated you.
Meads, you taught me how to look at the world in a different way. You taught me to think critically by being aware of the biased lenses we see some issues through. You taught me to challenge assumptions and that just because something is the status quo doesn’t mean that it is right. You passionately shared with us the wonders of New Zealand history and the heroes and characters that have formed this country. Thank you for always pushing me and forever inspiring your students.
Jean Garner passed away last year and so this is a tribute to a teacher who had the knack of taking tough content and turning it into material we could understand and enjoy. She pushed us and encouarged us to grapple with things that were hard rather than to just focus on what was easy. I haven’t forgotten her passion for learning and I am grateful to Miss Garner, as we knew her, for her encouragement.
For being an inspiring, innovative and enthusiastic teacher. You had so much energy and passion for History, that as a student, I couldn’t help being fascinated by the subject. My favourite memory was being chosen to play the part of Napoleon for our mock trial of Louis XVI during our topic studying the French Revolution. Until then, I had no idea History could be so relevant and exciting.
For being a wonderfully enthusiastic and knowledgeable Classics teacher. You really made the subject matter come alive with all your fun facts and bits of trivia. You made Classics one of my favourite subjects in school and I am currently planning and saving for my trip to Greece and Italy, to see all the places we talked about in class.