Nicola Ngarewa is a disrupter of educational norms. She sees the challenges in teaching as opportunities. She is a brave and caring leader. Meet your new Teaching Council Board Chair.

Whaea Nicola’s optimism for teaching and young people is contagious. She followed both her parents into teaching and her career spans more than 20 years in all sectors – from early childhood through to tertiary. Taranaki proud, she has dedicated the last five years of her career to turning the status quo of learning on its head in her hometown Pātea and now at Spotswood College in New Plymouth.

Q: How did you get into teaching?

Nicola: Born and bred in the metropolis of Pātea, I affiliate to Ngāti Ruanui, Nga Rauru. My parents both retrained to be teachers after the closure of the Pātea Freezing Works. My father became a secondary teacher and my mother eventually became the principal of the school where she started out as the cleaner. So, it was a very natural progression for me to  train to be a teacher, but I found my real passion for teaching while working in the NZ prison system alongside young males who were not devious, they simply were not given the same cultural and educational opportunities that I had been given in life.

Q: What influenced your decision to continue as a member of the Teaching Council Board and indeed, take on the chairperson role?

Nicola: This was a decision that I really reflected on before deciding to continue as a member of the Council board and become the chair. Ultimately, I kept coming back to the fact that I believe the Council is so well positioned to be progressive, agile and responsive to the needs of the profession and to continue to uplift the mana of the profession. They are strong attributes and values that I also respect; to be able to offer my support in any shape or form felt like the right thing to do. Accepting the chair role was admittedly initially very daunting, but a great friend of mine reminded me that you cannot say you believe in diversity, challenging perceptions of leadership and always aiming to live outside of your comfort zone without actioning it.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

Nicola: Throughout my teaching career I have been known as Whaea Nicola which roughly translates into ‘Aunty’. I like to think that this title is reflected in my leadership style: a person who cares first and foremost, and then whose job it is to bring the team together by working on each person’s strength, so that together we can be brave and bold and change lives.

Q: What do you love about being a teacher and a member of the profession?

Nicola: You get to work alongside the amazing youth and educators in our country to connect, strengthen and inspire each other to build a better world for tomorrow. Some days there are big life changing moments, but most days it’s just simple things that combined together create magic in the lives of students and educators.

Q: What are some of the challenges you see teachers facing right now and what opportunities are there for the Council to help overcome those challenges?

Nicola: Attracting the top graduates of schools/university to the profession and retaining them. Ensuring all educators have a personal leadership pathway so that they are supported to grow and develop through a multitude of pathways within the profession.

Q: You have turned around school performance at Tamatea High School, Patea Area School and are currently implementing a futuristic/innovative learning approach at Spotswood College, how will these experiences contribute to your role as Board Chair?

Nicola: They have taught me that leadership is always about the team, not the individual, that everyone needs to be clear on the WHY and the sense of urgency around this, that we need to be have the mindset of turning challenges into opportunities, be able to be agile and responsive, be brave and bold and remember that the students that we get to work alongside every day are not one in a million they are once in a lifetime!

Q: What do your weekends look like?

Nicola: I live in Taranaki with my partner in crime, who is also a teacher, Wayne Cribb. We have two girls – Karena, 20 and Maruata, 17 (a year 13 at Spotswood College). We’re surrounded by our extended whānau, including school whānau, so weekends are full of getting along to support young people at sporting or other events – always with good food and good fun! I always say if you don't laugh out loud at least once a day then you need to change something until you do!


Read more about Nicola’s leadership and career by checking out the articles and videos below:

Stuff article: Community key part of classroom learning for New Plymouth's Spotswood College students

Stuff article: New principal of Spotswood College is returning to where her career began

TEDx Talk: Once in a Lifetime | Nicola Ngarewa

Stuff article: Taranaki Daily News 2016 Person of the Year Nicola Ngarewa still leading the way in Pātea

Stuff article: Patea Area School transforms the way we look at education