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I had a fantastic time at Ashburton College and am a huge advocate of the school. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the friends you make at highschool are the ones that will stick around forever. It is definitely true in my case! Sport was a huge part of my time at the school and as is the nature with smaller town it was the same kids who played in the basketball, cricket and rugby teams, ran at athletics day and attempted butterfly to get the day off for swimming sports. It might be a bit biased but I felt our year group was unusually strong sporting wise. This was no more apparent than the great fruit wars of ‘07’ when a bunch of jumped up year 9’s (us) engaged in some friendly fire with the year 13’s. While the ‘big-boys’ had a few more years of age on their boat shoes, we had some great arms in the group with the likes of Thomas Meyrick being able to pick out a target from close to 100 metres away. Our parents were probably curious as to our sudden passion for fruit in our school lunches; if only Mrs McDonald knew what the mandarins were really for.
Most of the big achievements I was a part of during my time at the school were on the sports field. I was part of the Ashburton College year 9 and 10 cricket team which punched above its weight to reach the national finals. We knocked out big names like Christchurch Boys, Westlake Boys and Wanganui Collegiate but couldn’t get over the final hurdle, Palmerston North Boys High school. We couldn’t actually muster a full team so had to call in a tennis player and a year 9 to be our eleventh and twelfth men. On the other hand, PNBHS had seven year 10 teams, so we did alright.
I was part of the effort that revived the Ashburton College 1st XV after more than a decade of leaving the Press Cup. We didn’t get the results (in fact we won only 3 games in two seasons) but we felt strongly that we should be in that competition to develop our rugby talent and foster some pride in the school. We were up against strong local opposition and got minimal support. The clubs didn’t like the idea and some of the more narrow-minded even suggested that the true path to becoming an All Black was through grassroots club rugby and not school rugby, which is far from the truth in this era. We often felt like misfits, turning up to face prestigious rugby schools wearing cotton rugby uniforms from the 90’s. Despite all that, it was thoroughly worth it. In the years after we left Ashburton, the 1st XV started being able to compete with the heavyweights from Christchurch, getting wins over Christs College and St Andrews and making the national co-ed final. What’s more, a lot of the talent that was nurtured through the school returned to play club rugby after they left, improving the strength of rugby in Mid Canterbury.
Where I thought I would be
If you had asked me at Ashburton College where I would be at the age of 23, I would’ve been able to pick out a few things that I would’ve described as certainties. I would’ve finally given into the persistent advances of Elyse Andrew and accepted her as my girlfriend. We would be living in Dubai and I would be working as a Civil Engineer on some of the world's most advanced megastructures, having retired from international rugby sevens after the Rio Olympics.
Where I actually am now
Part of the dream did come true. I studied a Bachelor of Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch although I never practiced it. Straight out of university I joined the Markets team at BNZ in Wellington, where we traded derivatives, foreign currency, bonds and interest rates. It was a rather unreal experience, with transactions over 8 figures the daily norm, however I quickly found the suit-and-tie corporate life wasn’t for me and seeked greener pastures. My career pivoted to the technology industry, where I am currently Product and UX Manager at technology start up CricHQ, based in Wellington. The funny thing is that this job barely existed when I was at high school making it very hard to predict my career path. My job application was less than conventional, they didn’t even have a job going. Instead, I reached out to the CEO via social media with a pun-laden poem which obviously struck a chord because I was asked in for a coffee and basically configured my own job description. The opportunities which have come from that fateful poem include trips to our overseas office in India and plenty of interactions with high profile business and sporting identities. I could have never have imagined this when I was at Ashburton College. In terms of my other predictions, I am still holding poor Elyse at bay and I am yet to be an Olympian. I am not going to even try predict where I will be in the next 10 years, but there is a good chance I will be based overseas in that time and will look to start my own company. If you are ever in Wellington and want to have a coffee or a craft beer, get in touch. I have a lot of time for Ashburton College students, old and new.
At the time of writing this article - in two weeks and two further sleeps, I will have taught my last class of students at Ashburton College. After 41 years teaching at Ashburton College, I am retiring. One of four long serving staff retiring from Ashburton College, my situation is somewhat different from the other three, as I was a first day pupil of Ashburton College following the amalgamation of Hakatere College and Ashburton High School at the end of 1964. I guess to us as third formers, it was no different to any student moving to a new school to begin their secondary education. But for the teaching staff, it must have been a crazy experience. For six years, the school was located on the two sites – the Cameron Street site where the police station is currently located, the former Hakatere College was home to the Junior School – Forms 3 and 4 (Years 9 and 10), the Senior School – Forms 5, 6 and 7 (Years 11, 12 and 13) was on Grey Street, the current site of the Ashburton Intermediate School. Imagine this. You are employed as a teacher at Ashburton College. There are seven 40 minute periods in the day. You are teaching at the Senior School in Period 1 and your Period 2 class is at the Junior School. The bell rings for the end of Period 1 but the vehicle supplied by the Department of Education cannot depart the Senior School until the last member of staff was on board. There were times when teachers were 15-20 minutes late to class – for a 40-minute period! As students, we thought nothing of it. The story goes that the late Mr Bill Hayward, a teacher of Mathematics was driving one of the vehicles (past it’s used by date), down Cass Street – both hands on the steering wheel when the wheel became detached from the steering column! We laugh about it now, but how would it have been viewed with today’s OSH regulations.
I have pleasant memories of those days. I was made a Monitor in 1966 - a Junior School Prefect, and a Senior School Prefect in my last year – 1969. I was not strong academically, but I excelled at sport. Sport can open doors for young people, something I have always emphasised to my students. I competed in the 1974 Commonwealth Games (known then as the British Commonwealth Games). I was primary trained, but two years later, I was appointed as a PE teacher at Ashburton College and ten years later, Head of Department. In 1998, I was appointed Head of Faculty – a position I have held to this day. I am proud of the fact I was the athletics champion in all five years I attended Ashburton College and set records in all grades, three of which still stand – the Senior Boys 100, 200m and Long Jump. It is important to note that records were not created from scratch following the amalgamation, but rather the best performance of the two schools became the Ashburton College record. My 200m Senior Boys record bettered the time set by Owen Croy in 1925. Owen was a student at the Ashburton Technical School. Hakatere College was previous named Ashburton Technical School. For three years I was a member of the Ashburton College 1st XV and in one season, I was the top MCRU point scorer. I was the team’s goal kicker, but as a winger, I could also run! In 1970, I began my three years of teacher training at Christchurch Teachers College. I was on a studentship, which meant I was paid a salary, small that it was, and had to give back three years of teaching service on completion of my training. Having completed that stint in Christchurch, I was then on my own. The 1975 October 1 Gazette had six PE vacancies listed – five in the North Island and just one in the South. It happened to be Ashburton College – my old school. I had no intention of going back to Ashburton, but I had little choice. I promised myself I would stay two years. That was 41 years ago! I have no regrets. I have enjoyed my 41 years at Ashburton College. As stated above, I was promoted to a middle management role and am satisfied with my achievements. I am proud to say I have coached nine Ashburton College athletes to individual national titles as well as eight relay teams to national honours. In 2011, Ashburton College hosted the NZSS Cross Country Championships. I was chairman of the organising committee. The six senior members of my department average in excess of 30 years of teaching service at Ashburton College alone. I would like to think my management style in some way contributed to their decision to stay. I wonder how many of them also saw this as a two year stay? I wish the Ashburton College Alumni every success. What a great way for past pupils to keep in contact and to be kept informed of future developments at Ashburton College
I accepted a teaching position, by telegram, at Ashburton College in October 1974. I grew a bushy beard to try to make me look older than the senior students. Forty plus years later it is time for me to take my leave.
Over the years I have taught a range of subjects and apart from PE, they have all been in the Social science area. Social Studies, Geography and Tourism have been my major subjects but I have also taught Year 12 Economics, Year 12 Law and Year 11 History.
I did not expect to stay at Ashburton College for this length of time. Indeed I thought two years at Ashburton was to be my likely time. I did try to leave in 1990 when I was granted Leave Of Absence for one year. I taught at an excellent English secondary school in North Wiltshire. It was my sons in particular who wanted to return to Ashburton where the prospects of a bigger house and the ease of playing many sports were attractive for them.
I have gained a great deal of satisfaction from my involvement in sport at Ashburton College. I coached the College1st XV rugby y between 1976 and 2010 and often two or three other teams during the season. I coached the Hanan Shield secondary schools rugby team against the touring England side. During my time the College 1st XV made six tours to eastern Australia. Other sporting highlights were playing in the staff indoor and twilight cricket teams.
I gradually received some promotions and by 1996 I was head of the Social Studies Department, the Geography Department, the Tourism Department and I was Head of the Social Science faculty. I am lucky to have worked with many spectacular colleagues in these departments. I served as a Dean for 12 years and I spent two six month stints as Deputy Principal in the early 2000s. But my heart was in the classroom.
Since the mid 1980s I have taken many Year 13 Geography groups to Kaikoura to undertake field work. I have walked around that peninsula countless times! Other field trip sites have been Rakaia Gorge and Mt Cook. The Geography Department was also involved in Unit Standard and Achievement Standard trials in the early days of NCEA.
I represented New Zealand as a member of the AFS/Asia 2000 educators programme to Indonesia in 1997. I was also fortunate to spend two weeks in Japan as the guest of the Fukushima prefecture.
I have a very strong allegiance to Red House which has been successful in the last two years. Two of my sons were Red House leaders and I certainly don’t apologise for my biased appreciation of the wonders of Red house performances.
Why am I still here forty two years later? The answer is the quality of Ashburton College, its staff and its students and the wonderful community of Ashburton – big enough to have wonderful facilities yet small enough to still keep a sense of community.