Profile: Thea Kilian, Principal, ACG Tauranga

Why have you chosen to come to ACG Tauranga?

I am really excited about the journey that ACG Tauranga has ahead of it as a young school in a fast-growing environment. The potential is phenomenal and I want to be part of that. Visiting the school, I experienced a real sense of care and community which fits well with me as a person and as an educator.

How would you describe your educational philosophy?

In order for our children to achieve success both at and beyond school, it is imperative that that they are part of a strong community. They absolutely must feel safe, connected and engaged if they are to reach their full potential. Within this environment we are then able to truly inspire and challenge them to develop as people and as learners.

Education is moving forward. Ensuring our young people are creative, innovative problem solvers who have the ability to navigate an ever-changing environment is an absolute must. However, we must not lose sight of the importance of high expectations in terms of academic rigour as this provides the foundation for meaningful future-focussed thinking.

What makes a great school?

Great people. When you place caring, passionate and highly capable teachers in an organised and enabling environment, schools hum.

What excites you about education?

The fact that we are creating the future, right here, right now in our classrooms. The future is not something that is happening to us. We each have a hand in creating and shaping it for ourselves. If, as educators and parents, we do our jobs well, the world will continue to be an amazing and exciting place in spite of whatever challenges and changes lie ahead.


Can you share your thoughts about independent education - in New Zealand and internationally?

I appreciate that the number of students attending independent schools in New Zealand is still relatively small when compared with other OECD countries. However, the stable and maintained focus on educational excellence provided within the special character context of our independent schools will continue to attract families as government struggles to manage a very real teacher shortage alongside an overstretched workforce.  I would suggest that within this context, the demand for an independent education will continue to grow, which could potentially create a very real and significant crossroads for public education.


What encouragement would you give to parents considering a private education for their children?

There are many fantastic schools out there and I truly believe that you will find exceptional teachers in every single one of them. However, as a parent myself, I want my children to be taught by those exceptional teachers in every single subject. I also want my children to be surrounded by focused, highly engaged learners who care about their educational outcomes and who will challenge them to be the best version of themselves. Independent schools ensure that great teachers have the time, resources, facilities and capabilities to create these kind of environments for all our children. Investing in an independent education means we are all much more accountable to one another and much less is left to chance.


What do you see as the benefits of working at an independent school?

The most significant benefit for me is the ability to cut through the nationally imposed curriculum and assessment requirements to deliver teaching and learning that we, as educators, truly believe to be in the best interest of the students we serve. I also consider working with highly engaged and committed families, providing individualised support and enabling their children to excel throughout their educational journeys a benefit and a privilege. Enjoying the benefits of excellent facilities and resources is a definite bonus.


What are your thoughts on the general educational landscape in New Zealand?

I am very interested in developments around the mental well-being of our young people. This is such a crucial part of ensuring our students’ future success, yet we just don’t seem to have a good handle on it. Moving forward we will need to carefully consider what it means to live in a 24/7 world and how we enable our young people to take control of their own journeys within this.

Can you tell us about your children?

I have two children. My son Dannan is in Year 9 and loves Jazz. He is a keen trumpet player. My daughter Aleksi is a competitive Ballroom and Latin dancer. She is in Year 7. Both Dannan and Aleksi love school and are extremely excited about attending ACG Tauranga.