After more than three years at the helm of Hampden School, Matt Bokser is taking the next step in his principalship career. On July 22, he will start as principal at Waitaki Valley School in Kurow. Reporter Daniel Birchfield asks the popular school leader a few questions.
Q What appeals to you about teaching and how did you get into it in the first place?
I love that no two days are the same. I get to work with amazing, talented teaching staff, supportive communities, and fantastic kids. I really enjoy seeing students achieve their goals and watch them progress both academically and socially. The reason I got into teaching is because of my father, Lloyd. He was my teacher and principal for four years and I really loved the way he related to kids, ran his classroom, and how he ran a school. I come from a long line of teachers on both sides of the family, so it is in the blood.
Q Why did you want to take on the role of principal at Hampden School and when did you start there?
I decided to take on the teaching-principalship at Hampden School so that I could have more direction to implement school and community goals and vision. I was fortunate to work with some talented and supportive principals when I was teaching, and seeing what they did and how they did it was inspiring. I have always had a soft-spot for country schools and Hampden seemed like the perfect match for my first principalship when I became tumuaki (head) just over three years ago.
Q What are some of the highlights of your time there?
In my time at Hampden School we have achieved so many things with the support and shared vision of the amazing Hampden community. Things like updating our IT so each student has access to their own device; forming clubs on Fridays where every student is involved in activities like beekeeping, bone carving, sailing, skiing, fishing, ukulele, music recording, kaupapa, cooking and robotics. Last year we hosted our Southern Schools Kaupapa Festival with more than 400 people in attendance, two hangi pits full of donated amazing food and 200 crayfish. We have strengthened our ties with our local schools. Being tangata whenua of the Moeraki marae has also been a special experience. Our school has grown accordingly and that is because of our amazing teaching team and a very supportive board of trustees. I will miss the amazing Hampden community, supportive families, businesses and, most of all, the kids. The Hampden pupils are whanau, a great group of kind and caring pupils whom I have been proud to be involved with. I will miss the personalities and the interactions.
Q What appealed to you about Waitaki Valley School?
I had heard such good things about the school. They have a dedicated teaching team, supportive families, and of course, awesome country kids. As a family we love the area – we have our family crib up in Otematata and we have spent many summers up in the area. It seems like a fantastic fit.
Q What do you see the differences being between the two schools?
The age of the teaching buildings is remarkably different. Hampden School’s main teaching block is 155 years old, steeped in tradition, and the classrooms are single cell. At Waitaki Valley School they boast new, innovative modern learning spaces which they utilise effectively. There are so many positive similarities, but this would be the major difference I see between the two schools.
Q Do you plan on relocating to the Waitaki Valley?
We sure do. We are looking forward to moving into, and becoming part of, the community. Our wee lad, Bruno, is very excited to try out the new Kurow bike park.
Q What short-term goals have you set yourself?
The first thing I need to do at Waitaki Valley School is to listen. Listen to the community, kids and families and find out what their vision is and the things they love about their school. My focus is to maintain the amazing things that are happening at Waitaki Valley School, build on those strengths, and bring innovation and lead Waitaki Valley to a successful future.
Q How would you describe your principalship style?
Collaborative. I believe in sharing our strengths as a team and providing the best possible learning opportunities for all our tamariki. Positive relationships are vital and I enjoy working alongside my team to lead us towards our common goals.