Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

My name is Cherie Taylor-Patel and I am the current principal of Flanshaw Road School. I have lived in West Auckland for most of my life.  I grew up in Te Atatu North, before shifting to Massey, where I still live.

Having gone to Teachers Training College straight from school, I left teaching at the end of my third year to ride horses full time.  I did this for about ten years and had some really exciting times training and competing horses in one and three-day events.  Eventually, it was time for a new direction and, after considering all options, I chose to come back to teaching.  I taught in a range of West Auckland schools and did a brief stint in a two teacher school in the King Country before moving to Dominion Road School as a Deputy Principal in 1999.  I graduated with a Master's Degree in Education in 2000 and started a doctorate just before winning the position of Principal at Flanshaw Road School, in 2004. 

As a school leader and learner, I have really appreciated the on-going support of the Flanshaw Road School community.  I finally completed my doctorate in 2011 and the dual role of being both a learner leader and a University student has made me extremely mindful of just how hard learning can be!  Every day at Flanshaw there is something to celebrate by way of learning - be it a child has had that 'Ah ha' moment, a teacher trying a new strategy that worked or a staff member finding a new way to support students and families.

Flanshaw Road School is an 'Assessment for Learning' school, which is a whole-school teaching and learing pedagogy (theory of teaching in practice) that is focused on the student being at the centre of the learning process.  Over the last three years we have been working to develop a unique 'culturally responsive pedagogy' based upon the work of Professor Russell Bishop.  This approach to teaching and learing further emphasises the importance of 'knowing the learner', valuing every students' cultural capital, right relationships and learning through students' strengths and interests. Finding better ways to support parents as 'first teachers' has seen Flanshaw parents become genuine partners in learning and they are our "added value" taonga (treasure) that help make learning work for students in many different ways.

Since I have been at Flanshaw Road School we have had three major building projects - the Administration Block (2006), the Super-loos Project (2009) and the Kakano Classroom Block (2010).  In 2009 we became an Enviro-school and today an array of student-led projects can be found in and around the school.  These include a Japanese/Christchurch Memorial garden, the Nature Trail walkway and the upgraded playground.  Last year the school was 50 years old, so we had a series of Jubilee events to celebrate this milestone.  One enduring legacy of 2014 was the creation of the Flanshaw Pou, which is found at the entrance of the school.  The carved figures on the Pou represent Tiriwa, spiritual guardian of the Kawerau-a-maki (our local iwi) and the kaitiaki of the Manukau, Waitemata and whenua (land). 

Since 2008, Flanshaw Road School has been the lead school for WAPA 2020 - a network of primary, intermediate and secondary schools in West Auckland, that have been focused on "raising achievement across a region".  At the end of 2013, I had the privilege of winning an ASB-APPA (Auckland Primary Principals Association) Travelling fellowship.  In the second half of 2014 I travelled to the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, Singapore and Finland to find out more about networks of schools, networking, collaboration across schools and what works. It was an amazing opportunity to experience different education systems, to meet talented educators from all over the world and to learn about how education works in different countries, districts and local areas.

In September of 2014, I was elected onto the New Zealand Principals Federation Executive and this has been another opportunity to learn more about how to influence education policy and the development of national initiatives.  I have just been relected onto the Exec for another two years, so I am looking forward to working, on behalf of New Zealand principals, to sustain and develop a strong, quality public education system and a world-class education system!!

In all of this work, what keeps me inspired, grounded and feeling like 'I can make a difference', is the Flanshaw Road School students, teachers, staff and parents.  Having over 36 different ethnic groups represented in our school community and over half of our students being bi-lingual experts, I learn from Flanshaw students every day - and should be done by about the time I am 100!