From the Principal

By Mr Simon Coleman | Posted: Friday November 9, 2018

Senior Prize Giving Speech

2018 at Geraldine High School has been a year of not only change but one of new perspectives.

We have welcomed 16 new staff, both teachers and support staff, to our school this year. When a number of this size joins our school, approximately a quarter of our total staff, you can but only have new perspectives:

  • new passions,
  • different approaches,
  • creative ideas,
  • and varied experiences.

Our new staff this year have brought change - whether that be in how they teach, how they lead a department, different passions they bring or streamlining administration and financial efficiencies. This has reinvigorated myself to reflect on what I do, and consider other ways of doing things.

For our students, we hope that this translates into seeing things differently, embracing different teaching approaches, and, of course, learning new things and forming positive relationships with our new staff.

For education, we need this as it prevents us staying still, when the pace of education in NZ is moving fast. Nationally, we are currently in a period of reviews of NCEA and Tomorrows Schools for the first time since these began. It has raised the opportunity to contribute to what we believe can be improved or adapted in our curriculum and assessment areas.

From our schools perspective, it gives us the opportunity to look to see if we can do things differently such as looking at timetable structures to combining subject areas that will enhance the outcomes for our students.

One aspect, that has been apparent this year, has been that all our staff, both teaching and non-teaching, are wanting to try to do things differently from the past. Specifically, this year there has been greater sharing and working together across the school and with our department areas.

Some of this has been through structured Professional Learning time where staff have spent time in groups working on specific areas such as Literacy, Gifted and Talented, Key Competencies and Project Based Learning to name a few. But there has also been a number of departments working together on units that encompass their curriculum areas at various year levels.

We have seen emerging points developing from this which will start to be more of a focus in the coming years, not only here but across the country.

The first is learning in a context;

The second is greater collaborating - teachers sharing ideas and developing plans together not just in a department but across departments; and students learning as a team;

The third is student agency - the ability for each student to make informed choices and direct learning themselves.

I would like to share an example of this from a recent Unit in which all Maths and Science classes at Yr 10 worked together.

The Context is connected to a school in Zimbabwe that Mrs Rooney, our HOD Maths, has been involved with.

There is a village in Africa that doesn’t have access to clean water in the near vicinity. World Vision has jumped on board to help with this. There is a river a distance away from the village that water could be carried from. One problem is that they don’t have anything to carry it in.

This is where you and your team come in.

Your team’s job is to design a water carrier that will enable the villagers to collect the most water in a certain time. The well that the water will be stored in can hold 250 Litres.

It is often the women who carry the water and in this scenario the person moving the water will only be able to use one arm as they will be carrying a child in the other arm. You need to take this into consideration when designing your water carrier.

So the teachers involved used the school grounds to create the environment for this. It meant going from our Waihi river by the Year 7 and 8 area, to the village based near our stone gate.

Students were allocated into groups of 4 and given a certain amount of money to purchase materials from a shop set up over this time. They had a number of periods over the science and Maths classes to plan and make the water carrier.

In doing this unit, our students learnt about budgeting, surface, volume, speed and distance calculations, converting measurements, map reading, energy use calculations, bartering and of course how to communicate, work as a team, meet individual and team deadlines, planning and scheduling.

So in this unit we saw:

Context: Relevant to a world issue but also using our own outside environment to create the problem to solve.

Collaborating: Maths and Science Teachers planning the unit; students in groups that they didn’t choose so needing to work out the dynamics and roles to be an effective group.

Student Agency: Needed to make their own decisions such as - What they spent their money on? What were they going to make? What materials will they use? Can they afford to buy these materials? How will they managed their time as a group and individually?

And the feedback was this unit is one the students loved doing!

For many of the parents here tonight, you can probably see this unit directly connected to the workforce where many of these skills, attributes and knowledge in doing this unit are part of working in business also.

Next steps for us as we move forward with this current educational change, is the need to continue developing business partnerships so that we can work together to support and enable more relevant learning for our students.

Tonight I would like to acknowledge and thank 4 of our staff who are finishing at the end of this year.

Miss Georgia Fogarty who has been one of our Homeroom Teachers this year. She has immersed herself in our school this year with her ‘can do’ attitude, where she has been on our PB4L team, supported the Triathlon and Ski Teams, and introduced Ultimate Frisbee to our School. These examples are only a selection of what she has done.

Mr Jarrod Wallace who has been our French and ESOL teacher this year. He has involved himself in a wide range of school events, particularly our School Ball and socials as well as being our school’s PPTA rep. He has been an asset around our IT, being involved in our IT infrastructure, sharing his expertise and often assisting staff with any problems in this area.

Mr Kit Silcock has been at Geraldine High School for 11 years and has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the school. This has been invaluable in the deaning role he has had in Yr 7 and 8 along with his understanding of all aspects of our Junior school.

For Mr Silcock, what hasn’t he been involved in at our school? He has done most things but he has a real passion for the outdoors and has been involved in camps, activities and numerous quad and sports tournaments.

A few days ago Mr Silcock  spoke to the Student Executive about why he has stayed in teaching these last few years - ‘It is the staff, school environment and the students’ - ‘they are so wonderful to work with - why wouldn’t I keep teaching?’ This says a great deal about his passion for young people and wanting to make a difference in their lives.

Mrs Barb Gregan started in 1995 as a Teacher/Administration Assistant and so has been involved in our school for over 23 years. She has now worked with 4 Principals - Mr Graeme Nottage was her first Principal, followed by Mr Kerry Stevens, Mrs Juliette Hayes and myself. This certainly must be interesting looking back on how the 4 of us led the school!

Mrs Gregan has always been involved in school life beyond her job and has always assisted whenever possible in many events. Such as School Productions where she has been involved with props and backstage crew.

On a personal note, Mrs Gregan has been my PA for the last 4 years and has been invaluable particularly around the history and processes of the school prior to my arrival. Her efficiencies, ideas and thinking ahead along with her positive personality has allowed my role to be far more effective, so thank you!

We wish you all the best for your future endeavours and I ask that you join with me in acknowledging these staff for their efforts this year and to Mr Kit Silcock and Mrs Barb Gregan for the many years of service at Geraldine High School.

Next year we will have 8 new staff joining us across a range of curriculum and administrative roles and we look forward to having them being part of our Geraldine High School community in 2019.

Finally, there are a number of people I wish to thank for their efforts and contributions to this year.

My thanks to the Geraldine High School - Carew Peel Forest Board of Trustees for their continued drive and focus on the best outcomes for all of our students. We have had a number of areas that the Board have been involved in this year:

· the retirement of our Carew Peel Forest Principal, Mrs Kay Ward, who was a wonderful colleague to work with;

· the appointment of our new Carew Peel Forest Principal, Mrs Sharon Ketter from Northland;

· an outstanding ERO review for Carew Peel Forest;

· Financial restructure;

· a large number of property upgrades and numerous meetings with the Ministry around the Gym redevelopment project;

· the establishment of the COL positions as well as the ongoing availability for the many Governance issues that arise in a school each year.

Thank you to you all.

Our Board Chair, Mrs Sally Prattley, has given her time selflessly to this role which over the last few years has become a very busy one with property, staffing and ministry negotiations. Mrs Prattley is a huge asset to our school community in this role given her range of experiences on Boards across the education sectors. Thank you Sally - I certainly appreciate having you as a sounding board and for support in my role.

Thank you to all our staff for your commitment to our students. With such quality, committed staff - whether it is in the class, office or grounds; our school is a school where all our students have the support and guidance to be successful.

To Ms Cate Knowles, Mr Grant Rogers, Ms Maria Heitkonig, Mr Mark Hayward and Ms Rae Coburn – our Senior Leadership Team.

This team has changed this year with Ms Heitkonig as our new Assistant Principal, replacing Ms Quinn who has taken up the HOD of Science position.

We have also employed Ms Coburn as our School Business Manager who has brought a business model approach to our finance, property and HR this year which has been invaluable.

It has been wonderful to have the passion, knowledge and skills to ensure that we lead the school in the best direction possible and your total commitment to staff and students is what sets you apart.

To our Parents – thank you for the support you provide for your son or daughters in their education, as that is such a vital aspect to the success of your child at our school; and we very much appreciate this.

To our Year 13’s of 2018.

You have all contributed to what Geraldine High School is today and leave here knowing that you have gained the attributes that will make your next step a success.

Remember that even though you have left school, you are not forgotten and the school and staff will always be here for you.

To the Head Students – Jasmine, Felix, Maisie and Josh and the whole Student Exec -

You have been a cohesive team and great ambassadors for our school and the roles you have done will be invaluable in future career and study opportunities. Our school relies heavily on the leadership that you have all provided throughout the year and on behalf of the staff, I thank you all.

To the students gaining awards

All your hard work and effort is being recognised tonight. Have pride in the award you receive tonight - make sure you enjoy the time on stage as we applaud your success.

Ensure that you all finish the year with the same enthusiasm you started, with a commitment to your studies and giving your best in the upcoming NCEA exams.

Finally, I wish you all a very enjoyable Christmas break with family and friends and thank you for your support of the Geraldine High School Community this year.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa