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Pirinoa’s principal in his prime

Pirinoa School principal Matt Jackett collecting the Primary School of the Year award at the Times-Age sports awards last week with pupils Charlotte Kerrison-Jones and Leah Hume, and Brent Woodmass of sponsors Property Brokers. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV

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Pirinoa School principal Matt Jackett may only be 32 years old, but that gives him the competitive edge, especially when it comes to chasing pupils around the playing field, he says.

Jackett has been at the school for a year now, after ditching the city life to lead his country school in a new direction through hands-on learning and creative technology systems.

The easy-going principal acknowledged he was a young principal, but said his age meant he could run around with the pupils and relate to them.

“I wasn’t at school very long ago, so I know all the tricks,” he said.

Jackett grew up in Nelson and had been teaching at Avalon Intermediate School in Lower Hutt before moving to Wairarapa last year to take up his role at Pirinoa School.

“I’m very grateful to become a principal at a young age, I feel very honoured,” he said.

He and his fiancee, Monique, and their five-month-old son, William, are embracing the laid-back rural lifestyle which includes Jackett playing for the Tuhirangi rugby club and owning two sheep, two pigs, two rabbits and a cat.

Since starting at the school last year, Jackett has helped fundraise for 20 iPads, which are shared among the 47 pupils to use for creative projects.

He said the technology gave the pupils opportunities to make movies, and record and make music.

“The students use them to be creative, not just to consume,” he said.

He said most of the achievements at the school were helped along by the parents, the wider community, and the other principals at South Wairarapa schools – something which has blown him away since moving to the small rural community.

Whether it’s working bees, fundraising or transporting children to events, the entire community was always pitching in, he said.

“We have a really supportive community and that definitely makes my job easier.”

Jackett has made sure he pulls his weight too – he is not only principal, but he occasionally mows the school lawns, cleans the gutters and teaches two days a week.

“There’s always something to do,” he said.

Matt Jackett, right, helping his Year 5 and 6 pupils build a pallet hut planter box.

And on Wednesday that something was helping the Year 5 and 6 pupils build a hut made from pallets which would also serve as a planter box.

“This is what it’s all about,” he said

“Hands-on learning gives them good practical skills which is what they’re best at.

“A lot of our students come from farms, so they can actually use their knowledge in a practical way.

“It also teaches them how to relate to others and manage themselves.”

His proudest moment at the school so far was winning the Times-Age sports award for Primary School of the Year last week.

“Even though we’re a small school, we can actually achieve great things here.”

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