Profile: Kerry Allen, Agribusiness Project Curriculum Director, St Paul's Collegiate School

Can you give us some background on your teaching career? How did you start off in teaching, and what made you decide to become a teacher?

I gained a degree from Lincoln and moved into teaching Agricultural and Horticultural Science at secondary school level.  I started my teaching at Hillcrest High School teaching Agricultural and Horticultural Science across five year levels. I went on to become the HOD of Agricultural and Horticultural Science.  I have been a regulator of NCEA exams and a Ministry of Education curriculum and assessment writer, written numerous Agricultural and Horticultural Science workbooks for ABA Books and Telford Polytechnic, and worked in the private sector as an Agricultural and Horticultural Science educational consultant to schools.  Three years ago I was appointed to be the project curriculum director for the Agribusiness project, based at St Paul’s Collegiate School.

My mother is a teacher so I have been associated with the teaching profession all my life. I like interacting with young people and enjoy passing on my knowledge. I have witnessed the primary industry skills shortage first hand as a part owner of two dairy farms and of AgFirst, a national agricultural consulting company that provides business solutions to the rural sector, so I know that the industry needs good quality, bright people!


Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people to set you on your way to a career in education?

I have always had a passion for the primary industries borne from my days growing up on my parents’ farm.  I had a really good Biology teacher at my high school and I loved going to her classes.  All my family is involved in the primary industries so it was a natural progression to teach Agricultural and Horticultural Science and Agribusiness.  


Can you tell us a bit about the Agribusiness Project Curriculum? And about your involvement in the development of the NCEA Agribusiness achievement standards?

The Agribusiness programme is designed to develop students’ knowledge of agricultural science and business beyond the farm gate and encourage tertiary study in this sector to address the skills shortage of New Zealand’s biggest export industry. 

St Paul's Collegiate School successfully established partnerships with a range of key businesses and organisations from the agribusiness sector. With myself as the lead writer,  we developed a highly academic Agribusiness programme for secondary schools at NCEA Levels 2 and 3  that will help meet the industry’s long term needs to develop highly skilled and motivated young people, required for a sustainable future for the primary sector.

This was a pioneering programme of national significance and has been recognised in political circles as an exciting and essential component of meeting our country’s future economic aspirations.  It included writing seven new Agribusiness Achievement Standards.  The new standards are under four strands: science and technology, innovation, management and finance, and marketing. The standards are for bright senior Sciences and Commerce students, and are designed to be taught across all primary industry sector contexts.

In 2017, the Ministry of Education approved ten New Zealand secondary schools to trial the draft NCEA Agribusiness achievement standards.  This involved 350 students nationwide. As part of a team, I wrote the teaching and learning guides and assessment items developed for NZQA.  This year, the new standards have become available for all New Zealand schools to teach.  We are currently working with any school or teacher to help implement Agribusiness into their teaching and learning programmes.


How did you feel when you found out you’d won the WINTEC Award?

Surprised! I was up against a very well-known scientific writer in the dairy industry and felt that he was worthy of the award.  I was very pleased to represent my school and our team that has been developing this programme over the last five years.  I believe it was a team effort rather than an individual award.


How would you describe your teaching style?

I emphasise experiential and contextualised learning, with the use of learnscapes.  I am flexible, adaptable, practical, engaging, fun and hands-on.  I try to be all these things and ensure that I am relating the knowledge back to my students and their everyday lives.  If they understand why they need to know it and they can see a use for the knowledge, they readily learn.  I ensure that the knowledge is readily understood and can be applied straight into the industry. 


What attracted you to St Paul’s Collegiate School?

The innovative Agribusiness programme.  Agricultural and Horticultural Science and Agribusiness education is my passion.  A school that was trying to do something out of the square and improve the Primary Industry was something I wanted to be a part of.


What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?

The interaction with the students. Helping them to grow and seeing their light bulb moments is always a highlight.


What are your thoughts on the benefits of independent schooling?

Independent school students have amazing opportunities available to them, passionate and dedicated teachers, and their schools are able to take risks to implement programmes that will have long term benefits. Independent schooling allows students to grow and develop in a supportive and structured environment.


In your role as a teacher, what do you most want for your students?

For them to be their best!  To ensure that they are able to take up the opportunities that they have available to them, whether that is a good job, further education or growing a garden at home.  Whatever they want to do, to the best of their ability.