Over 16,000 lessons later teacher still loves his job.

Paul Devereux reckons he has delivered more than 16,000 classroom lessons over 21 years, yet he once feared becoming a school teacher.

A maths teacher and the year 7-10 dean at ACG Sunderland in Henderson, Devereux says he absolutely loves teaching.

"I especially love teaching maths," he says, "but you know I once swore I would never be a teacher; it scared the heck out of me. I was at university and the idea of standing up in front of a room full of kids, being organised and always having to have an answer seemed like a lot of responsibility."

But two years working as a youth pastor after leaving university convinced Devereux he had what it took to cut it in the classroom and so, at 26, he changed careers and began teacher training.


"I saw teaching offering a better career and pay," he says. "It is a great career and it gives me an immense amount of joy."

Devereux - along with a number of his ACG teaching colleagues - says there are many positives in teaching despite national unrest over pay demands and recent media reports that some teachers are being forced to leave Auckland because of the high cost of living.

Devereaux's first job was at Kerikeri High School in Northland where he stayed for five years before working for nine years at the Pinewood Prep School near Oxford in England.

He has spent the last seven years at ACG Sunderland, one of five independent schools run by ACG Education in New Zealand.

Devereux says he has a passion for the job and tries to inject fun into his lessons: "Maths is not a creative subject, so I try to bring humour into the classroom and there are hardly any days where the students and I are not cracking up laughing over something.

"But you've still got to bring your A game to the table every day," he says. "Teenagers have such high expectations and are motivated by vitality. Teachers need to be organised, motivated, disciplined and have the ability to get alongside students at their level - and to want to."

Devereux says getting a breakthrough with students is rewarding - one of his students who last year was scoring under 10 per cent in maths is now up over 50 per cent - while teachers often learn as much from students as they give.

A fellow ACG teacher, Rebecca Maher, head of English at ACG Senior College in downtown Auckland, has not been put off by some unsettling experiences while relief teaching at schools in inner London.


"It was a real eye-opener," she says. "Some of the schools were fenced off and I would go through police checks when arriving for work. Once or twice I felt a bit unsafe, but never in any real danger.

"But it didn't put me off teaching, in fact it made me appreciate the environment and culture in New Zealand schools."

Maher, who has been teaching since 2009 - her first job was at Hamilton Girls High School - has been at ACG Senior College for three years and says she is motivated by being able to give students the same opportunities she has had.

"I felt like I was naturally drawn to teaching, I see it offering an excellent career path."

Freya Jenner, an English teacher at ACG Strathallan, says relationships are at the heart of teaching.

"You cannot always plan for the unpredictability of human nature and it is the way you respond that will test your character and patience and help you grow as a person as well as a teacher," she says.

"Teachers are no longer considered the fountain of all knowledge; rather they are facilitators, preparing students for a world which demands innovation and creative, lateral thinkers.

"It is not about forcing students into pre-made cookie cutters - it is about making new connections, embracing different perspectives and celebrating individual ways of thinking."

Jenner says teaching is like being your own boss: "There is so much freedom to be able to teach knowledge and skills in all sorts of interesting and innovative ways."

Sue Wood, an English teacher at ACG Tauranga, says she cannot think of a career more important than teaching. "It is a lifetime commitment for me," she says. "One of the greatest aspects of teaching is the privilege of working with young people - people who have not made their minds up about anything yet; this can be a very enlightening experience for adults."

Wood has been a staff member at ACG Tauranga since it opened in 2015 following a stint at Epsom Girls Grammar and then 12 years teaching in London. She says teaching is also great fun.

"If you like young people and engage them by being personable it is easy to be light-hearted around them," she says. "Every day we have fun."

Sue Woods. Photo / supplied.
Sue Woods. Photo / supplied.