Myra Coley with her Year 13 leaders. Clockwise from front left: Amera Krivan, Shai Efaraimo, Lily Lewis, Xanthe Hutchy-Way, Aislin Maugatai, Jade Thompson, Seni Iasona, Imogen van der Raaij. PHOTO/ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

A Wairarapa teacher’s next adventure awaits
Coley says local teens are ‘world changers’

Erin Kavanagh-Hall

While teaching in Wairarapa, Myra Coley has been passionate about opening her pupils’ eyes to the wider world.

Now, the veteran educator and keen traveller is heading off on her own international adventure – following a fellow Masterton teacher to a new post in China.

After a heartfelt farewell from pupils and staff, Coley stepped down as deputy principal at Makoura College at the end of Term 2.

Next month, she and her young family will head to China, where she has secured a teaching job at Rong Qiao Sedbergh School, an international school for junior and secondary pupils, in the Fujian Province, south of Beijing.

During her three-year contract with the school, her family will be based in Fuzhou, one of China’s new cities – vast, sprawling, futuristic hubs, designed to urbanise country and stimulate economic growth.

Coley will be the second New Zealander to join Rong Qiao Sedbergh’s multicultural team – the first being Campbell Maunder, former deputy principal at Masterton Intermediate School, now head of the international school’s junior syndicate.

Coley has taught in Masterton for 11 years, working her way up to a variety of senior management roles, first at Chanel College and then down the road at Makoura, where she started in 2017.

Under her leadership, her pupils were able to form close bonds with the international community – as she supervised the overseas student exchange programme at Chanel, helped Makoura acquire a Japanese sister school, and organised a volunteer trip to Samoa, and various fundraising drives, for senior Makoura pupils, staff and whanau.

Given her passion for international education, the China job seemed like the perfect opportunity to broaden her own horizons

“It’s been very special working at Makoura – but this opportunity was too good to turn down.

“We’re very excited to immerse ourselves in another culture for the next few years.”

Coley, originally from Whangarei, did her teacher training in Hamilton, and got her first job at a primary school in South Auckland.

After a stint teaching in Australia, she settled in Masterton, where her husband Adam grew up, and started teaching Year 7 and 8 classes at Chanel, becoming junior school dean and, eventually, assistant principal.

In 2017, she applied for the role of deputy principal at Makoura – a job she felt she couldn’t pass up.

An action-packed two years followed – as well organising student trips to Japan and Samoa, she taught maths and health classes, helped implement new innovative learning programmes (including project-based learning), assisted with running the student council and the school’s Poly Group, and was a mentor for the student leaders.

“I loved working with my Year 13 leaders – there are some real world-changers in that group,” she said.

“The kids at Makoura are fantastic – real characters.

“They have so much potential – when they see you care about them, and they know they have a friend in you, they will go the extra mile.”

At Rong Qiao Sedbergh, Coley will go back to her primary roots, teaching Grade 5 (equivalent to Year 7).

She said stepping back from a senior leadership role would allow her to spend more quality time with her husband and three younger children, aged seven, three and two.

She went back to work at Makoura two weeks after her youngest was born.

“I don’t think people appreciate what goes on behind the scenes when you’re a secondary teacher,” Coley said.

“[Working with teenagers] you see a lot of heartbreak; you’re helping them navigate some tough stuff.

“In management, there are long hours.

“I’d get home some nights and my kids would be in bed.

“I was putting so much into my students, but I didn’t want my own kids to miss out.

“This new role will help bring some balance back – and I can put my family first.”

In the meantime, Coley and her family look forward to embracing the Chinese way of life – preparing by teaching themselves Mandarin from both phrasebooks and YouTube.

Makoura College principal Paul Green said Coley “truly embodied the values of our school”.

“Myra has been tremendously dedicated to our students – encouraging them to become more aware of what they can achieve.

“She has always had high expectations and made it clear to our students that they should aspire to broaden their horizons and seek fulfilment [beyond their comfort zone].

“She will be very much missed by our school community.”