Rick Kivell's career in education has spanned the length of the country and nearly half a century.



As well as 45 years of experience in maths and science teaching, he claims to have the largest collection of squirrel figurines in the Southern Hemisphere.



When he retires from his position as deputy principal at Kamo Intermediate School this week he will catalogue his collection of up to 3000 pottery squirrels and focus on his goal of creating a self-sustainable household.



The squirrel hobby began when his wife was given the nickname of Squirrel in her first job. Ever since then the couple has been collecting ceramic squirrels. "I like learning about the history of the potter, and we spend hours hunting them down online," Mr Kivell said.

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The figurines range from functional salt and pepper shakers to toy figurines.



Mr Kivell has taught at schools from Balclutha to Matarau, and in a variety of different roles.



His work began in the 1970s, what he calls the "golden-age" of education in New Zealand.



"New Zealand then had so much creativity going on in the sector, to me that's the biggest change I've seen."



His first taught physical education in Otara, then moved to a seaside town near Balclutha where his passion for hands-on science began.



"We went down to the beach for cross-country and actually found moa-hunting stuff in bush nearby. We taught the kids how steeped in old history we were."



He and his family next moved to Manawatu, then up to Whangarei, where he was raised. After being principal of Raumanga Intermediate and Matarau School he became a Ministry of Education science curriculum advisor for teachers at all 138 Northland schools.



All the travelling took its toll, so he became principal of Dargaville Intermediate for four years before taking the position of deputy principal of Kamo Intermediate.

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He was grateful his work at Kamo Intermediate included teaching two classes of accelerated learners in mathematics and science.