E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi – tēnā koutou katoa
Ki te atua – tēnā koe
Ki te whare e tu nei, ki te papa e takoto nei – tēnā korua.
Ki te hunga mate – haere atu ra
Ki a tatou te hunga ora – tēnā tatou
Kia ora, Ko Matt Dalton toku ingoa, ko ahau te tumuaki o tenei kura, kei te koa te ngakau ki te kite i a koutou
No reira tēnā koutou tēnā koutou tēnā tatou katoa
Distinguished guests, members of the Board of Trustees, parents, grandparents, whanau, staff and students, I extend a warm welcome to each and every one of you as we gather here this morning to celebrate the myriad of achievements of our talented young men and women. This occasion marks my first prizegiving as Principal and I am extremely proud to represent this incredible College and celebrate with you the successes of our students here today.
Behind every prize and every success are the teachers, parents, whanau, friends and supporters who have been with you, our precious students, every step of the way, through the highs and lows. Today we can all sit back and feel very proud of your achievements and who you are becoming as young men and women. Your story is still being written.
Before this, however, prizegiving is a time for us as educators and learners – of which we all are – to continue to reflect on the world and the space of change we are navigating in the way we all approach education. As a College, we must continue to embrace the requirement to change and adapt, to chart a new course built from the strengths of what we do best – Teaching and Learning. Change is a constant in this rapidly evolving word. We recognise the challenge to prepare our students for a world where innovation, collaboration, resilience and the ability to solve complex problems will be required; a world where key strengths a young person will need are the ability to learn to be adaptable, relational and culturally located.
At Aquinas College, we are aspirational. We strive to deliver learning that is Christ centred, connected, culturally located, authentic and exciting, where all our students want to be engaged, where our community willingly shares its skills, strengths and values and where learning is at the core. This is our aspirational journey.
We get what we expect and our community must continue to expect great things from our College and our young people. Our collective challenge as College, parents and whanau in 2019 is to continue to grow not only strong young men and women who experience academic success, but young people who are compassionate, considerate and Christ minded. We thank all parents, caregivers and whanau members for your ongoing support of our College and look forward to continuing to build strong working relationships focused on student success next year.
2018 has proven to be a very successful year once again for the College. We have celebrated the character, commitment and achievements of our students in academia, sport, the arts and in cultural endeavours.
We again celebrated superb student results for the 2017 academic year which placed our students as the academic leaders within the region and well above the Government’s measures of student success in National Standards, NCEA and University Entrance. This is true for the achievement of our boys and our girls when compared regionally and nationally, and for our students of Māori and Pasifika descent. I pay a special tribute to the four students who we learned in February had attained seven New Zealand Scholarship passes from the 2017 examination period. We especially commend Lilli Scott who, as a Year 12 student, attained three Scholarship passes. This is rare for a Year 13 student, let alone a Year 12 student.
In 2018, our junior students once again continued the tradition of academic excellence and indications heading into external examinations were that our senior students would also produce exceeding results once again.
There have been many activities and events that have showcased the talents of our students and richness of our cultures, including Aquinas Day, international week, Matariki celebrations, College pōwhiri, exhibitions and speech events. The significant increase in participation in our College Kapa Haka group has been pleasing and we hope to experience further growth and development again next year, especially as members of this group prepare for a cultural enrichment trip to Rarotonga. The continued progress of our College Haka and its inclusion in Aquinas Day was also a highlight.
Sport continues to be well supported and catered for at Aquinas College. Impressively, 70% of our students are involved in sport in more than 20 codes and activities. This level of participation is outstanding and is worth celebrating. In particular, our Senior Boys’ Waterpolo, our AIMS Games Girls’ Waterpolo, our First XI cricket and our Pistol Shooting teams, who performed outstandingly well in their respective national competitions, must be congratulated. There were 139 regional representatives selected from our College this year and five students who achieved the highest distinction of representing New Zealand. They were: Lochlainn O’Connor (swimming and surf life-saving), Jack Egan (kayaking), Briarley Rogers (basketball), Antony Death (rock-climbing) and Kieran Death (rock-climbing). Additionally, we celebrated four national title holders – Noah Zingle (Waka Ama 8km Long Course), Hugo McCarroll (trampoline), Jazmine Trusler (gymnastics tumbling) and Jasmine Watene (gymnastics vault). Individual silver medals in the AIMS Games were also achieved by Hugo McCarroll (Tumbling), Zoe Haydock (Aerobics), Kieran Death (rock-climbing) and Charlie Way (Table Tennis). Perhaps most impressively, Lochie O’Connor was recently crowned a world champion in surf life-saving. We will hear more about this later!
The performing arts experienced a vibrant year, with soloists and ensembles performing in a range of events, festivals and competitions. Ensembles included Voci Celesti, Acafellas, Junior Choir, Concert Band, Jazz Band, Rock Band, String Group and Chamber group. Highlights have included our annual Performing Arts Evening showcasing all groups and our Silver awards gained by the Jazz and Concert Bands at the BOP/Waikato, ITM Band and Orchestra Festival. Furthermore, our Chanel Shield team- which placed first in Senior Drama, Junior Bible Reading and Senior Oratory- was also worthy of celebration. Next year, we will look to continue the tradition of performing a high quality show with our College Production, Fiddler on the Roof.
These achievements and experiences in and of themselves are special and deserve these accolades; however, these are not what define us as a College. These achievements could be replicated by any state school, locally or nationally. I’m not belittling these achievements, far from it, but it’s important for us to remember our Vision: Educating Catholic Leaders through Faith and Action.
This is not my vision, this is not the Board’s Vision, or that of the RE Department. This is OUR collective Vision. Every one of us here and those in our community that can’t be with us today must own this. Christ is the reason for this school. This message sits at the reception to our College and serves as a reminder to us all. Catholic Character is the very core of all that we do at Aquinas College, symbolised by the monstrance in our crest, to remind us that Christ is at the centre.
As a Catholic College we are called to be a community that serves one another, both within our school and outside of it. This idea of sitting at the feet of another and serving, is a powerful challenge to us all, but one, nonetheless, that lies at the heart of what it means to be a Christian person and an authentic Catholic College. It has been such a privilege to work alongside so many students, staff and families who have embraced this idea of Christian service in our College with little fuss and fanfare but with genuine compassion, care and generosity.
It behoves us all to reflect on our journey this year. Have we been selfless servants of Christ? And where are our opportunities to serve and lead through faith and action in 2019?
In providing this snapshot of student contributions and successes, we must acknowledge that these things are not possible without the dedication of a community who integrate faith, life and culture.
As Principal, the quality of our staff and the potential we have for making a profound difference in the lives and the learning of the students in our care, is of paramount importance to me. I feel very blessed to be working with some of the best educators that I have had the privilege to work alongside. The drive, passion and determination – underpinned by skill, knowledge and empathy, has seen teaching and learning continue to raise progress and achievement despite the ever changing social, learning and emotional needs that we are confronted with today. The resilience required from the 21st century teacher is an incredible mix of passion, professionalism, patience and persistence. In acknowledging the teaching staff, I acknowledge too the wonderful support staff team that ensures this College runs smoothly. They are often the unsung heroes of our College. Every member of this staff team, both teaching and non-teaching, has a critical function in the success of this College. Please know that your contributions and efforts are most valued and appreciated.
I must also pay tribute to the supreme dedication and support of the Senior Leadership team and my PA, Mrs Ramsbottom. Thank you all for your support and guidance this year. Today marks the last ‘first time’ for me experiencing a College activity this year. It’s a really interesting space to navigate where you are expected to have an answer or make a decision but you don’t know what an event, activity or procedure fully entails.
Sadly, to leave us this year are also some wonderful staff members – some here for just a short while, while others have been part of our community for a long time. I publicly acknowledge each of you for your considerable contributions to our College.
Specifically, we are farewelling:
Mr Matt O’Neal – Assistant Caretaker
Mr Steve Finlayson – Wellness Coordinator
Mrs Adrienne Danby – Teacher Aide
Mrs Noelene Taylor – Teacher of ESOL
Miss Ashleen Fahy – Teacher of Music
Mrs Emma Talbot – Teacher of History and Social Studies
Dr Stephen Binns – Teacher of Mathematics
We wish each of you well in your new journeys and challenges. Go with the confidence that you have made a positive impact on our students’ lives here at Aquinas College.
We are also farewelling three long-tenured members of staff:
Mrs Chris Inder – Teacher of Year 7 & 8
Whaea Bernadette Egan – Teacher of Te Reo Maori
Mrs Robyn Parker – Science Technician
Mrs Parker and Mrs Inder are both foundation members of staff and Whaea Bernadette joined the staff later in 2003. Each of these women have made immense contributions to our College and students, both past and present. Father Mark celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass at the College last Friday in honour of these special ladies. This was to pay tribute to their contributions to our College and Catholic education generally. Chris, Bernie and Robyn, we will miss you, and we thank you for all that you have given to our College. Take every confidence in the fact that your fingerprints are in the foundations of this College, which is well positioned for continued success. We wish you well for your continued journeys. Keep in touch!
I also acknowledge our superb Board of Trustees that is committed to student achievement and the ongoing improvement of this school for our community. This group of elected parent representatives and Proprietor’s representatives give an amazing service to our College community. I thank our Board Chairman, Mr Scott Kahle, in his absence, and all Board members, for your dedication, guidance and support this year. It has been truly appreciated.
Lastly, to our Year 13’s – we are so proud of you all. You have provided wonderful student leadership this year and we thank you for all of your contributions to Aquinas. I have especially appreciated the way you have individually and collectively advocated for the student body on a range of matters. Our students are our most important stakeholders and I have been grateful for your considered and mature feedback. A special acknowledgement to our Student Executive, led by Jessica Phayer and Ethan Mackay, Abigail Speight and Leon Castle, who have exercised wonderful leadership in developing activities and initiatives for our entire student body this year. As a Year 13 group, your journey through our College culminates today. For many of you, this marks the last seven years of your life. Step out into the world with pride and always rise to the challenges life offers you. Face your future with inspiration and a desire to make a go of any opportunity that comes your way. Last night at the Leavers’ Mass, Father Mark reminded you of the importance of being safe and being kind as you take your leave from this College. I’m going to take that further and remind you to Act as Christ to others.
In closing, may the prayers, dreams and hopes of this holy season enliven us so that we can better heed the message hailed to the shepherds. “Do not be afraid, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole world.”
May the Lord bless each one of you as we partner together with Christ in the education of your children.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.