The principled principal whose tenacity's taken him to the chalk face's professional pinnacle
The first time Allan Rumble sat School Certificate he failed by a tantalisingly close 12 marks.
That he went on to become a secondary school principal, leading educationalist, fellowship winner, Education Ministry adviser and made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education speaks volumes of the tenacity that's carried him to the pinnacle of his profession.
His latest achievement's the book School Leadership - A Principal's Reflections, which he's written at his wife Margaret's behest.
"She told me I should put down some of my experiences, that those with an eye on a career in education would find them useful. I guess it's really a 101 in school leadership," he says.
Allan Rumble's become the go-to man for the inside know-how on leading schools.
He spent some years as Western Heights High's co-principal with Violet Pelham.
"We became like brother and sister."
Since then he's held short term principal and manager posts, from three months to a year, heading a roll call of schools around the region and beyond. We'll get to those but first the big reveal on exactly what made this low-key person the remarkable man he is today.
The word 'humble' is made for men of the Allan Rumble kind. Talking about himself's his least favourite subject.
Teaching hadn't been his number one job choice. As a teenager he wanted to be a farmer. Working on relatives' Otago farms during school holidays gave him a taste for wide open spaces.
"After I re-sat School Cert [and passed] I realised I'd never be able to afford to buy my own farm so I did the next best thing and applied to Dalgetys to become a stock and station agent. They said 'yes, but we'd like you to go back to school for a year, study science, that will help you in agriculture'."
Allan obeyed and became hooked on science. It was to become his specialist teaching subject.
His first non-farming job was as a med school lab technician, but it was the prospect of watching a post mortem that cooled him on a future in that field.
The timely intervention of a teacher arriving at his home turned his mind to teaching.
"He [the teacher] had organised a Birthright Scholarship for me to go back to school to prepare me for my future."
Birthright had stepped into the Rumbles family life when Allan was 13 and his father died, leaving his mother to raise five children.
Allan's subsequent study costs were also eased by a studentship that covered his fees, board and paid a small emolument (salary).
This enabled him to attend Otago University, initially studying science.
"I found the first year a struggle, the second year I switched to zoology and chemistry, did a double major.
But something had to give. "To prepare for the exams I had to stop playing rugby, give up cross-country running."
At school he'd captained the 2nd XV. "My vice captain was Laurie Mains, he'd been a year behind me."
It won't take a rugby aficionado to recognise the Mains name as an ex All Black and ABs coach.
The sports sacrifice was worth it. Allan graduated with a BSc chemistry diploma and, after a year's further study became a fully fledged teacher.
His first posting was Shirley Boys' High in Christchurch where, on top of teaching the sciences, he became rugby coach.
When the school made a visit north to play Auckland's Westlake Boys' High, Allan was team manager and fell in love with the climate.
"Christchurch isn't great in winter. Back home I said to Margaret [they'd married some years previously] we have to go and live in the North Island."
Allan became head of Thames High's chemistry department, this led to him being invited to help write the country's science curriculum.
His first stint at Heights followed.
"John Barrowman was principal, old Johnny taught me was how to fish ... I have a lot in my [professional] life to thank him for too."
He'd been at Heights three years when he was attracted by a Manpower Aid Scheme ad for teachers in Rarotonga.
Again he was to receive an emolument, plus a house in the school grounds. By then he and Margaret had a son and daughter.
"It was a wonderful lifestyle for a family. When the heat became exhausting we'd swim and snorkel in the lagoon to cool off."
"Raro" was en route to a wide assortment of international destinations. During school holidays the Rumbles travelled extensively.
"We loved Raro, were meant to be there two years, stayed three."
Returning to 'real life', Allan became dean of science at Waihī College, but Heights wanted him back.
"It was like coming home."
Initially he was senior master, then junior school deputy principal. When principal Byron Bentley moved on he and Violet Pelham assumed their co-principals' positions.
In 2005 he considered it time to retire – but that's a joke if ever we've heard one, Allan's never not worked or spent time studying overseas.
While still teaching he was awarded a Woolf Fisher Fellowship to Australia (these are offered, not applied for), spending time comparing and contrasting different states' educational systems with New Zealand's.
Weighty stuff, but not one without some fun tossed in.
At Alice Springs he took time out to go camping and if ever there was a dinky die Waltzing Matilda Aussie experience Allan's was it.
Issued with a tent and a swag he was sent to sleep by a billabong with instructions to watch out for crocs and snakes. "I survived."
He's been a member of a principal's study tour to South Africa with a side trip to the Mozambique border for a spot of wild game watching.
He's attended the National College for School Leadership in the UK and spent time in China establishing Heights' student exchange programme.
Combined, each has paid dividends in his career's next phase.
His euphemistically called "short term" principal-ships have included Taupō's Tauhara College, Putaruru, Kawerau and Edgecumbe colleges, plus Murupara Area School at the time of its amalgamation, incorporating primary, intermediate and secondary students.
"It was my first taste of primary kids. They'd run up and give me hugs, that was wonderful."
"Wonderful" is the word he also uses to encompass his time as manager-supporting principal at Hawke's Bay's Te Aute College.
"I lived in with the boarders. The spontaneous haka they performed for me on my last day was a very special moment in my life."
Two periods with the Education Ministry's Rotorua branch involved managing behaviour and advising on students at risk.
"To be perfectly honest, I don't know where the time's gone, I've been very privileged to have worked in a job that's been so satisfying.
"I hope my book will inspire people to go teaching and aspire to educational leadership, there's no better vocation you can have."
ALLAN RUMBLE MNZOM
Born: Dunedin, 1945.
Education: Kensington Primary, MacAndrew Intermediate, King's High School (all Dunedin), Otago University, Christchurch Teachers College, Massey (Diploma of Education).
Family: Wife, Margaret, son, daughter, 1 grandson, 2 granddaughters.
Interests: Family, education, travel. "I took up golf in Rarotonga, play a bit at Hinehopu. My handicap? Myself."
On his life: "I've been very fortunate, have a wonderful wife, have had a job that's given me so many opportunities."
On Rotorua: "This is where I'll remain until I die because of the people, the environment, forests, lakes, climate."
Personal philosophies: "Respect brings respect", "Excellence comes from intent."
This is the final Our People profile in the present series. It will return next year.