Starting in January, Marcus Cooper will become the new principal of East Otago High School. Tyson Youngtalks to him about his new position.
Q: Where do you hail from, Marcus?
I was born in Balclutha, as the son of a freezing works engineer. We moved to various small rural towns in New Zealand, including Mataura and Gore, before we settled in Dannevirke, where I completed the majority of my primary and secondary education.
Q: How did you come to work in the education sector?
While I was at the University at Otago doing a science degree, I was offered a job working for Child, Youth and Family (Oranga Tamariki) as a resource worker with at-risk youth. I found that I could relate to the young people quite well and that it was possible you could make a positive difference in their lives.
Q: How long have you worked in education?
I’ve been working in education for 18 years.
Q: What made you want the top job at East Otago High School?
The majority of my teaching career has been at schools in Otago, including South Otago High School for two years and Taieri College for 10 years, before taking up my current position at Oxford Area School. My wife Kate’s family are from Dunedin and my parents are originally from and currently reside in Oamaru. The job at East Otago High School was a chance to be closer to family and friends and to live in a region that we are passionate about.
Q: Are you excited about your new job?
Yes, I’m very excited about this opportunity. It is a great area of the country with hard-working staff to collaborate with and to improve student outcomes. The chance to be part of a tight-knit rural community where my kids will grow up and be educated is truly motivating.
Q: What’s the best part about your job?
The positive effect you can have, on not only students but the community you work in. Developing a culture of mutual respect and reciprocal learning among students, staff and families where the proverb it takes a village to raise a child rings true.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like spending as much time with my young family as possible. I also like tramping, mountain biking, trail running and squash, which are pastimes that I try to find time for.
Q: If you could catch up with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would catch up with Sir Edmund Hillary. He was a great New Zealander, explorer, and pioneer. His achievements over a storied career defined us as a nation.
Q: If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would be the first thing that you would do and why?
I would ensure that all education is free, equitable and accessible for all children, no matter what socio-economic background they are from.