Wendy Single might be new to Pembroke School but her passion for teaching in rural communities is anything but new.
Prior to taking up the role of principal at Pembroke School this term, Wendy spent the past five years as principal (and sole charge teacher) at Whareorino School in Waikawau.
"It's about 40 minutes north of Awakino, a very small place."
Wendy has fond memories of her time living and working in the small Waikato township school, which last year had just eight children on its roll. Three of those belonged to Wendy and her husband, Ben.
Small schools offer a unique opportunity when it comes to education, she says.
"When the community is so small, you really get to know the school families well. There can be a deeper understanding of each child and you can build strong connections with each of them, simply because there are fewer children overall contending for attention."
Wendy's passion for rural schools dates back to before her time as principal at Whareorino School however.
"Before we were there, we lived in Mokau where Ben was the principal there for several years."
While Pembroke School, with a roll of just under 100 pupils, is noticeably bigger than either Mokau or Whareorino, there are plenty of similarities, says Wendy.
"I first saw the school a few years ago, when Junior (Togia) was the principal. He and I were going to an education meeting together so I called in to the school to pick him up and had a quick tour. I remember immediately being impressed by the school and thinking it was a really nice rural school."
Those positive impressions of the school meant Wendy was quick to apply for the role of principal when the opportunity arose late last year.
"When I saw the job advertised I jumped at the chance."
Her application was successful and Wendy, Ben and their four children have now moved to Stratford in readiness for her new role.
"We have bought a house here in Stratford and all four children will be attending school locally, two of them at Pembroke and the older two will be going to Stratford High School."
They have spent the past few weeks exploring their new home town and are settling in nicely, she says.
Once term starts, Wendy won't be just in the principal's office but will also be spending time in the classroom, co-teaching literacy and numeracy with Barb O'Keeffe.
"That way I can really get to know the pupils, as well as also understanding exactly what the teaching staff face each day."
Wendy is already getting a strong sense of the friendly and positive Pembroke school community spirit.
"Just this morning I was talking to a couple of locals who, while they no longer have children at the school, still clearly have a strong connection to, and love for, the school. That is what is so great about rural schools like Pembroke, the community that comes with it."
Pembroke School, like other rural schools, offers pupils the opportunity to enjoy childhood while learning in a supportive environment, says Wendy.
"I am really passionate about that. My philosophy when it comes to teaching is about allowing children to enjoy being kids. Offering them the opportunity to enjoy a quintessential Kiwi childhood while also helping them to develop the skills they need to be successful in later life."