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Master and apprentice . . . Oamaru dancer Tannah McLay (right) gets some last-minute motivation from teacher Kimberley Mavor before the New Zealand Highland dancing championships. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Ardgowan School teacher Tannah McLay had a holiday story to tell her class. She posted one of the best results in the recent history of North Otago dancing when she placed fourth at the New Zealand Highland dancing championships in Ashburton. Tyson Young talks to her about the event and her passion for Highland dancing.

Q Where do you hail from, Tannah?
I come from Oamaru, originally. I was born and bred here.

Q How long have you been doing Highland dancing?
I’ve been dancing since I was about 3. Highland dancing is sort of a family affair. My grandmother, my mum and my aunties did it. Now myself, my sister and my cousins do it. Kimberley Mavor has been my dancing teacher right since day one. When I was at uni in Dunedin, I went to Lynette Mitchell, another teacher, for about three years. It was quite good to be taught different things by a different teacher.

Q Tell me about the competition you entered during the school holidays.
I took part in the 18 and over New Zealand Highland dancing championships. I placed fourth overall in the competition. I was stoked – I was not expecting that at all. It was such a great surprise.

Q Have you competed in national competitions before?
Yes, I have. This was my fifth 18 and over champs, but I’ve never been in the top 10 before. Last year, I did the nationals and I actually tore my Achilles and so I had to stop dancing for a while. I was in a cast for three weeks and in a moon boot for six weeks. I was kind of thinking last year would be the last competition that I would compete in. But then I thought, ‘you can’t retire on that’, so after lots of physio and rehab, I finally got back into dancing.

Q Can you see yourself continuing Highland dancing in the future?
I’m not sure. I always said that if I get top 10 in the nationals then I would retire. I already do judging for Highland dancing competitions so I’ll probably head down that path.

Q What do you do for a living?
I’m a primary school teacher at Ardgowan School. I’ve been teaching for about two years.

Q Was there anything in particular that made you want to become a teacher?
I was in my final year of high school. People were applying for university and I had no idea what I wanted to. I had a couple ideas and then I’d go off them. Teaching was the only idea that had stuck the whole time so I thought I might as well go and give it a go. Thank goodness I did – I love it.

Day job . . . Tannah McLay helps pupils (anti-clockwise from bottom left) Amelia Lanyon (9), Sadye Kawau (8), Talia Familton (8), Olivia McLean (8), Holly Cartlidge (9) and Fern Ramsay (8) at Ardgowan School. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

Q When you are not teaching or dancing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to do a bit of water skiing when I get the chance.

Q If you could have a glass of wine with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Kate Middleton just because I’m a real royalist ha ha. I just love the Royal Family and I like how Kate has managed to cope with being a royal so well. She’s so cool, calm and collected all the time.

Q If you were prime minister for a day, what would be the first thing that you’d do and why?
I would employ more support staff in schools who are better qualified to cope with certain children’s needs.