Tell us about Seven Oaks School, how would you describe it?
Seven Oaks is an independent school that achieves outstanding academic results by growing the social and emotional abilities of our students. We achieve this by authentic hands-on learning and by building strong relationships with the children and our community. Each child has an individual learning path with learning that engages them by being relevant and meaningful to them.
What are your future ambitions for Seven Oaks?
We moved to our permanent location in 2017. Since then our roll has been growing at 20-30% per year. In 2020, we opened a pre-school, which is off to a flying start.
Our immediate ambition is to fill up the existing capacity we have. This will give us 136 Year 1 to Year 8 students and 55 preschool places. Once that objective is achieved we plan to open a year 9/10 class and then a full secondary school a few years later.
Describe the pathway your career has followed.
I started my career in Japan teaching English for a private company. Initially, I only taught adults. I was later asked to go and teach in the schools in Osaka. After eight years in Japan, I moved back to New Zealand and became a teacher. I have taught every age from New Entrants to Year 8.
I was Deputy Principal at Lyttelton West and Lyttelton Primary for over ten years before I became the Principal of Seven Oaks School. Lyttelton went through a lot during this time with the earthquakes, a merger and a change to Modern Learning Environments. I learnt a lot.
Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people who set you on your way to a career in education?
Finding out that I got on so well with children and enjoyed their company was a life-changing moment for me. This happened while I was teaching in Japan. After my first day teaching children, I knew that I had found my calling.
How would you describe your leadership philosophy?
I use the servant leadership model. A servant leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. I feel that using this model benefits the growth of all of us at Seven Oaks. Our educators are very highly motivated and want to perform to a very high standard. This approach is modelled through our educators to our students so they also learn to adopt a similar motivation in their own lives.
Can you share your thoughts about independent education in New Zealand?
Independent schools get a bad rap in New Zealand. Many people believe they are for the rich and are old fashioned. That is a narrow viewpoint. There is a much wider range of philosophies in the independent school system than in the state system. Also, many independent school parents are not well off but feel that an independent education is the best fit for their child.
What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent school?
We have the freedom to design and implement our own curriculum and to set small class sizes. This has enabled us to place the holistic growth of children at the centre of their learning so they become empowered, not just to achieve academically, but also to make the changes in the world that we would all like to see.