Over the next couple of weeks students will be heading back to school after the summer holidays - some of them for the first time. Northern Advocate reporter Mikaela Collins speaks to teachers, parents and kids about the year ahead.
Shannon Taylor has always wanted to be a teacher.
When she was little she would play "schools" and had a roll for all her teddy bears.
Now the 22-year-old is the real thing.
This year is her first full year of teaching and she is excited to help shape the minds of the year 3 and 4 students in her classroom at Whangārei Primary School.
"I just love being able to give knowledge to kids and watch their little minds light up as soon as they understand something. It's such a cool feeling," she said.
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Taylor - or Miss Taylor to her students - studied teaching at the University of Auckland's Te Tai Tokerau campus in Whangārei.
She said she only knew about the campus when she was applying and saw there was an option to study in Whangārei.
"I could still live at home and be around my family and friends. I can't imagine being in a big lecture room. At Tai Tokerau there are small classes, all the lecturers are really approachable so you can talk to them," she said.
While this will be Taylor's first full year teaching, it's not entirely new to her. She started at Whangārei Primary School in term four last year - while she was still studying and working a second job.
"It was stressful but they were really supportive of me here [at Whangārei Primary], I had a great mentor - no question was stupid to her, she just gave me all the information I needed."
After spending a term at the school last year, she was offered a one-year contract for this year.
She said she was excited but nervous for the year ahead.
"It's going to be a big load but I know I'm really well supported here which is a nice feeling."
Whangārei Primary School starts back on February 3.
Taylor said half of her students will be the same ones she taught last year, the other half are new.
She said she's most excited to teach her own lessons, rather than from someone else's plan and was enjoying having her own classroom.
"It's nice, when I walked in the walls were mainly brown and it was exciting to put colour on them and do it the way I wanted."
NOT ENOUGH TEACHERS
Meanwhile, some Northland schools are still looking for teachers.
As of yesterday 23 vacancies were listed on the Education Gazette website.
Principals' Federation president Perry Rush said the teacher shortage situation was "variable".
"Wellington appears to be okay. A number of principals there said there was reasonable supply there," he said.
"Christchurch seems to be travelling okay. In other South Island areas there are no significant issues.
"But here in Hawke's Bay it's tight. Northland is tight," he said.