To say Jill Shaw’s legacy could define a generation might verge on understatement.
In half a century of teaching, she has influenced thousands of young lives and helped navigate an educators’ world warped by social media and increasing social problems.
“There have been a lot of changes in my time as an educator. There is a heavier administrative element for today’s teachers, but technology is probably the biggest one with the influence of social media affecting children’s behaviour,” Jill said. “There is also more poverty around today, both material and emotional, and that impacts a child’s learning.
“Teachers today aren’t just educators … they have to be social workers too. There are more dysfunctional families than there were earlier in my career. Teachers today have to make school a safe place, a place where a child’s wellbeing is as important as the curriculum.”
February 4 was significant for Jill. It was her last day at Te Awamutu Intermediate, where she has taught for 30 years and been teaching principal since last year. Even as she looks forward to more family time, the tug will be hard. Jill’s deep emotional investment in these youngsters lies just under the surface … there is a real sense of sadness as she leaves.
“I always wanted a job at Te Awamutu Intermediate. I have a real passion for year 7/8 students. There is nothing quite like being on the journey alongside emerging adolescents as they go through emotional and physical changes. Intermediate students have so many amazing choices and Te Awamutu Intermediate does that so well. There have been times I have come across young adults whom I thought were ratbags at school, who are now happy and succeeding in life … it’s very satisfying when some of them say they remember something I said or did to help move them forward.”
Jill never really considered anything other than teaching, although she does admit to musing about becoming a councillor or taking on a career in radio. After studying at the then Hamilton Teachers College, she launched her career at Ngāruawāhia Primary School before heading to Te Awamutu in 1983. After five years at Pekerau Primary and two at Cambridge Intermediate, she took on the principal deputy role at Kihikihi Primary and then moved to Te Awamutu Intermediate as deputy principal.
Latterly, when she felt the existing behavioural management programme was “a bit tired”, she and colleague Jock Ellis introduced the PB4L programme – Positive Behaviour For Learning. In conjunction with SHINE – which encourages respect, honesty, inclusion, never giving up, and seeking excellence – they sought to weave good behaviour into the cultural fabric of school life. They also introduced boy’s only classes.
It has all been a huge success, Jill said: “We saw a positive change in the students’ behaviour … this has become a school of choice in the area.”
Leaving the school at the same time is Jill’s husband Murray – who has been caretaker at Te Awamutu Intermediate for the past few years. The new principal is former Te Uku Primary School principal, Pip Mears.