Loving the lifestyle at Don House


Boarding has become Scott Mayhew’s life’s passion.

The Waitaki Boys’ High School director of boarding has been recognised for his 16-year service to the industry at a recent New Zealand Boarding Schools Association conference.

Mr Mayhew started his career as a team leader at Waitaki Boys’ before joining Rotorua Boys’ High School, where he won a national award for outstanding leadership in 2018.

He returned to Waitaki Boys’ Don House last year.

For Mr Mayhew, the past 16 years had ‘‘flown by’’.

‘‘You don’t even know you’re doing it and you just get caught up so much in this lifestyle and before you know it, it just rolls into one,’’ Mr Mayhew.

‘‘It’s something that you can’t be part in or part out, it’s either all in or nothing sort of stuff. Because I love it so much, it doesn’t really faze me too much.’’

Originally, Mr Mayhew studied to be a physical education teacher in Dunedin. But after working at the Waitaki Boys’ hostel to gain experience while playing rugby for North Otago, he soon realised boarding was his passion.

It was a career that suited his lifestyle. He loved interacting with the pupils, giving them life skills, and it kept him on his toes.

He lives on site with his wife Kylie and their three children, and family was embedded throughout the hostel.

‘‘Another thing that I love around here is we are a big family.’’

The industry had changed through the years and developed to be a ‘‘wraparound’’ support service for the pupils.

‘‘We’re more than just a hostel. They used to say, ‘It’s a home away from home’, but we’ve developed from that — we’re more than that.’’

It was an industry allowing him to constantly upskill and Mr Mayhew had completed a 12-month Tiaki Tiaohi course, about pastoral care, learning about the teenage brain and how the boarding affected them.

Waitaki Boys’ has 50 pupils at Don House at present, compared with 140 in Rotorua.
But having smaller numbers allowed Mr Mayhew to know each pupil and their families better, and the tight-knit community helped, he said.

Being ‘‘born and bred’’ in Rotorua, Mr Mayhew knew what made Rotorua school pupils tick, but it was different in Waitaki — especially with more rural children.

‘‘For these boys it’s a totally different way of seeing the world. It’s been really good to learn through their eyes and through their experiences.’’

Every part of boarding was rewarding, but none more so than when pupils returned later in life telling him about the impact he had on their lives, he said.

‘‘You don’t get to see the end product, because they don’t realise what you’re trying to teach them until they’re 25, 26.

‘‘The best thing is when one of them comes back.

‘‘That’s worth every single hour, every single minute you spend here — it’s worth all of it, it’s just fantastic.’’

He was also bringing new initiatives to Don House. Two bathrooms are being renovated and each term had a different theme. This term focused on getting to know the hostel and its whakapapa.

‘‘I don’t know it myself. It’s been really, really good.

‘‘We spent a night with the rector (Darryl Paterson) and he taught us some really good stuff about the history.’’

He planned to be in the industry for another 16 years.

‘‘You’ll have to kick me out — I just really enjoy it.’’