Every Monday, the Chronicle fires 10 questions at a Whanganui local. This week Logan Tutty talks to Whanganui High School principal Martin McAllen.
How long have you been in education and what is it about teaching that you are so passionate about?
I have been a teacher for 26 years. I am passionate about educating and teaching students so they are in the best possible position to shape their own future after finishing their secondary school education.
What are some of the achievements the school has accomplished in your time that you are particularly proud of?
• Introducing a House system.
We have four houses: Awa, Maunga, Moana, Whenua. There are 56 mixed-year form classes
with 14 form classes in each house.
• Abandoning our enrolment zone and enabling fully inclusive open entry into Whanganui High School.
Strengthening our student leadership model through house form class representatives and the Student Council so younger students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate school leadership before reaching Year 13 and applying for prefect positions.
You moved to Whanganui four years ago. How much different is the place versus what you thought of it before you moved here?
My grandfather (my mother's father) was born in Whanganui and grew up here. My favourite great-aunt also lived in Whanganui for a long time so I have great memories of Whanganui as a child and teenager. Whanganui is definitely our home now – I love the city and the rohe.
What are some of your favourite things to do around Whanganui?
Walking along the awa with my wife and our two large dogs. Walking the tracks around Virginia Lake. Heading to Kai Iwi Beach and Ototoka Beach for walks with our dogs. Visiting the fantastic art galleries and cultural activities/centres within Whanganui. Enjoying our favourite cafes and restaurants – great atmosphere, coffee, food and service.
What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self?
When I was 25 my wife and I were part-way through four years of living and working overseas. I was working for the Open University in Cambridge, England, and beginning to think about becoming an English teacher when we were ready to return back to New Zealand. My advice to 25-year-old me would be: always trust your first instincts and intuition about important matters; always think long-term.
What is something outside of work that you would like to achieve in the next 10 years?
I would like to stay fit, healthy, have a good overall sense of wellbeing and be sound of mind. I would also like to become involved in more community organisations.
How would you describe 2020 has been from your position?
As for everybody, it has been a very unusual year due to Covid-19 and the effects of the pandemic. I have had to plan, adapt and plan again with the involvement and support of our wonderful staff, students and whānau at critical stages throughout the different alert levels and the lockdown period. Generally, we have been fortunate that the situation has not become as bad as it looked like it might be for many people at certain pivotal points in the year; at the same time, a number of our whānau continue to be under intense economic pressure and are definitely struggling financially.
If you could have a sit-down dinner with any three people from history, who are you choosing and why?
William Shakespeare – simply the greatest writer of all time in the English language. I imagine he would be very quick-witted and great company. Florence Nightingale – an inspirational trial-blazer for her innovative work in nursing and improving hospital care in very difficult conditions. George Orwell – such a great writer. He would be able to offer fascinating observations about our present time in history.
What are some of your all-time favourite movies?
Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Gattaca, Billy Elliot, The Lord of the Rings and Children of Men.