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Our Staff: Rachel

“I work with 76 of New Zealand’s finest young men.” You can tell that Rachel could talk about them all day – although she stresses that there’s no way to get across what the experience of working at Kingslea School is really like. You have to experience it!

Some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable rangatahi, often with inter-generational issues and little or no family support or safety net – and yet, 76 of New Zealand’s finest. Rachel has been with Kingslea since nearly its beginning in Tāmaki Makaurau, four years ago. “The first year, when we walked in to start class, everyone was like ‘f*** off, why do we have to do school? School sucks!” She vividly recalls the first day when a whole lesson passed and not one F bomb was dropped about teachers or school.

Rachel is beaming when she talks about prize givings. “When they go up on stage, they often turn the certificates outwards, so everyone can see the writing on them. It’s beautiful.” They have often never had success at school before, never received awards. One student asks Rachel: “Can I please have two certificates? I have two kids, and I want one for each of their bedrooms. I want them to know that their dad is a success.”

Some of these rangatahi pass their Level 1 NCEA. They pass vocational courses in first aid, Site Safe and skills with scaffolding, fork hoists, and drivers licences. At the recent Christmas Market they raised $1,500 for Papakura Marae. “When we passed over the money the boys were gobsmacked, that they could raise that much”. Rachel laughs. “But you should see them selling – they are amazing hustlers!”

There are challenges. The personal resilience required of teachers is high. In mainstream schools, teachers are the ‘boss’. It can be quite a shock to come into Kingslea, where the students will let you know what they can cope with – “Don’t come in thinking that these rangatahi are going to follow your plan. If you’re planning to work on literacy, but Johnny wants to work on numeracy, you’re going to be doing numeracy.” Rachel takes positive strength from these adversities as well – “you do a lot of soul searching”.

When asked if teachers stay on for long, given all the challenges they face, Rachel is definitive – everyone who is a good fit – stays, or would have liked to stay. Kingslea offers a good work-life balance, and the job is suited to those who are busy after school or have weekend sport schedules, like Rachel. You rarely take work home, and ’none of that horrible Sunday afternoon marking’. A lot of this is down to the class sizes, Rachel says. Class sizes of five to ten – compared to some class sizes of 32 in mainstream.

“It’s not an easy gig… your superpower has to be adapting and working with vulnerable rangatahi.” Rachel muses. “But it is exciting!”

If that’s your superpower, please check our Vacancies page, or follow us on LinkedIn for new openings.

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