When he started teaching in the 1970s, Murray Powell, principal of Shannon School, faced teaching drama and music to 125 students in one large open plan class at Gonville School, Whanganui.
He was the newest qualified teacher, working alongside 'old-school' staff who had only taught in their own small classrooms. He learnt a lot from them but his interest in working in collaborative teaching methods was ignited.
His career included teaching across the lower North Island, Australia and principal of Worser Bay School, Miramar for 11 years. At the end of this term, Murray is retiring as principal of Shannon School after 12 years of exploring all ways possible to encourage the students to want to learn; developing their inquiring minds.
The school is known for its collaborative, innovative, student and community-focused principles. All staff work together to concentrate on the best outcome for each student.
In his second teaching job at a rural school in the Hawke's Bay with just one Pākehā student and 100 per cent Pākehā staff, he learnt his most valuable lesson in education.
"Parents had unhappy memories of their own schooling.
"Their children were struggling. The Education Board adviser told me to keep the kids happy first. If they are not happy, they won't learn. I have always kept that in mind."
Having taught every age group, demographic and ability over the years, Murray also led regional principal groups to share and collaborate further, something he particularly enjoyed.
He was attracted to the Shannon job because the board and school staff were open to doing things differently to get the best results for the children.
"For me, the honeymoon period as a new principal has never stopped here. I have been able to push the boundaries always to find how best to get our children to learn."
On his first day at Shannon there were lots of children waiting outside his office to be disciplined. Now that rarely happens as staff deal with the issues.
"The teachers really know their children. We are an inquiring school, reviewing everything always."
He says it took 10 years to embed the new culture at the school with constant support from the board and staff.
He is proud of the meaningful and valuable relationships the school has developed with iwi, the wide use of technology to support learning, and the Enviroschool focus which he believes will extend further in the future.
Most of all, by listening to the student voice and making sure they are happy first and foremost, he is confident Shannon School will continue to flourish.
Being at home during lockdown gave 67-year-old Murray time to reflect. He decided now is the time to step down and spend more time fishing, playing the piano and walking on the beach.
He hopes to continue to work with schools in the area on special projects, particularly involving teaching music and drama. His farewell at school is on December 4.