‘School’s out for summer, school’s out forever’.
The words of that much-loved rock song from the 70s could well be the swansong for Mangawhai Beach School teacher Ann Parnell who has just retired after 18 dedicated years of instructing and guiding Mangawhai early entrants on their initial pathway through life.
In all Ann has spent 28 years working in junior classrooms although she took a 10 year break to give attention to her family which at one point meant dealing with four of her own youngsters under five years of age.
Living in Hamilton and wishing to move north, Ann answered the call for a junior teacher at Mangawhai so made the trip to a place she knew little about.
“It was a terrible wet and windy November day,” recalls Ann quite clearly. “Roadworks made the trip a long slow one, and there were huge potholes to leap in the parking area outside the school. There was one ‘restaurant’ in town and that was open on Saturday nights during summer.”But somehow she could see through the mire into what life in Mangawhai could be. Needless to say her application was accepted by then principal Alan Russek, and the Board of Trustees, and the rest is history.
At the start of the school year in 1996 the school comprised six classrooms accommodating 130 pupils. That has now grown to 15 classrooms and 350 pupils with no sign of slowing down.
Over the period of her tenure Ann has seen and has adapted to many changes in teaching, in society attitudes and the demands of the job but still takes a keen interest in the future progress of her 5–7 year-old charges.
“I often meet past pupils at functions or on the street,” says Ann. “They know me but sometimes I have to think hard to put names to the faces of these now young adults.”
Outside of school Ann enjoyed dancing, attending the many old-time and square dances that were held in Mangawhai and surrounding districts, playing tennis, and with any other spare time going towards some of the many volunteer opportunities that present themselves.
So, what is Ann Parnell going to do with her time?
“Nothing and anything,” she says with a laugh. “Something with no timetables.”
And will she miss it after all this time?
“Well, as the Christmas holidays are a part of the normal school year, ask me again at the end of January 2014 when school is about to recommence. Mostly I’m just looking forward to retirement and using my Gold Card.”
A rest well earned.
LOOKING AHEAD: Pictured with Mangawhai Beach School students, Ann Parnell is retiring after nearly two decades of teaching local kids.
By Rob Pooley