British teacher loves her new life on the West Coast
UK-trained teacher Kate Halls recently moved to New Zealand to work in a high school in the South Island close to where her beloved Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.
She is certain she has made the right move, as the beauty on her doorstep is just one of the attractions.
Kate Halls was recruited by Greymouth High School last year and teaches maths. Coming from the UK, she says she loves her new life, having deliberately chosen to teach in a part of New Zealand that was rural and so different from the north of England, where she had been living in the town of Lancaster since becoming a teacher in 2007.
Working closely and collaboratively with colleagues is a change for her. "There is more collaboration between fellow teachers here, and I get more feedback than I did in the UK."
Curriculum a major plus
After becoming interested in migrating from the UK, Kate started by investigating The New Zealand Curriculum, and that was a major plus for her.
“The curriculum really resounded with my personal and professional goals.”
The interview was arranged through Education Personnel, an agency she made contact with at a Manchester expo.
“We did the panel interview on Skype, and then I was also observed via Skype teaching a maths lesson with three students for half an hour. The school wanted students to have a voice in the decision, which I support,” she says.
As her prior experience since graduating in 2007 was in teaching adults, she completed a Teacher Education Refresher programme through the University of Waikato, through distance learning, to prepare her for teaching young people in New Zealand.
She arrived in January after obtaining an Essential Skills Work Visa.
Kate was born and raised in Wales and speaks Welsh, and her schools were all bilingual. She moved to the north of England as a teenager, but says, "Woe betide anyone who calls me English!"
Dual language important
To reflect her heritage, on the walls of her classroom are Welsh words, along with those from other languages, so that students have exposure to them and can see how often words are spelt or pronounced similarly in different languages.
"My dual language heritage is important to me, and I appreciate the importance of maintaining and supporting te reo Māori. When I started reading about Māoritanga in the UK, it immediately struck a chord. It wasn’t a culture shock at all for me because it linked to my personal ethos.
"I love the Māori focus on holistic wellbeing, which integrates and includes everything, and I enjoy seeing that put into practice every day here."
Differences between Kiwi and British systems
Three out of the school’s six maths teachers are British, and Principal Andy England says they bring teaching experience, dynamism and strong motivation to make things work.
"There is less formality and structure compared with the British education system, and we are more relationship focused. Kate’s been strongly supported by the school community, and she has lapped up the professional learning she has received," he says.
Kate has found a big difference in the way students interact with teachers compared with the UK.
"Relationships that students form with teachers are closer and more friendly, and their learning is strengthened by that, as the foundation is mutual respect.
"In general, young people in Greymouth have a more relaxed attitude than their peers in Britain. They’re less urban, and there’s less focus on fashion and image. Not as much of an 'Instagram culture’" she says.
Kate and her husband John, whom she met through their shared passion for the Lord of the Rings movies, plan to stay permanently on the West Coast.
Moving across the world has delivered her better weather as well as other positives. She says the weather is “wild, wet and occasionally wonderful, with a lot more sunlight hours and less pollution".
"The air feels cleaner, the sky brighter. Sunny days with the backdrop of the mountains are glorious."
Their home is close to the school, so there’s no time lost in commuting, and housing is affordable, she says. “We can live on one income here in Greymouth."
They plan to hit the road over the summer holidays, she says.
"We can’t wait to see more of New Zealand, especially Queenstown. We’ll be camping and checking out the places we first saw in Lord of the Rings."
Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback