University alumnus has dream job shaping new Pāpāmoa school

University of Waikato alumnus Kris Metcalfe is part of a team of exceptional educators shaping a new primary school in the heart of Pāpāmoa.

08 Oct 2021

Next February, Te Manawa ō Pāpāmoa School will open its doors for the first time, welcoming in children from new entrant level to Year 6.

Kris is one of two foundation Deputy Principals at the school, and is excited to be part of the core foundation leadership team alongside Principal Shane Cunliffe and fellow DP Cath Humphries.

“It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity to shape the school that is in your head,” says Kris, who has worked in education for more than 20 years.

“There is no blueprint for what the school has to be, and there is a lot of excitement about the opportunity to be part of something new.”

As a Pāpāmoa local, it’s also a chance to bring the community together.

“We have an emphasis on connections, community and whānau,” says Kris. “Pāpāmoa is growing so fast, so we want to be a hub for our families and community.”

Kris was raised in Tauranga, and lives in Pāpāmoa with wife Kelly and their two daughters, Lulah, 8, and Maya, 6.

He has worked at a number of primary schools in the Bay of Plenty - including Pillans Point Primary SchoolArataki Primary and Selwyn Ridge Primary - as well as Discovery Bay International School in Hong Kong.

This experience - combined with his studies at Waikato University, has shaped him as an education leader.

Kris graduated with his Master in Educational Leadership from University of Waikato Te Kura Toi Tangata - the School of Education, as well as a Bachelor of Teaching degree.

The masters programme was also where Kris met Te Manawa Principal Shane Cunliffe in 2017 - the two were in the same cohort, and were “study buddies”.

“His beliefs align with my thinking,” says Kris. “Working with him was a bit of a drawcard [to the role].”

Te Manawa’s leadership team consulted closely with the community and local iwi, Ngā Potiki, to develop the school’s mission and vision.

Celebrating the individual strengths of ākonga (students) is a key part of their holistic, student-centred approach, says Kris.

“We say it’s ‘one-size-fits-one education’. How do we meet the individual [child] where they are at and take them on a journey of growth?”

Having the opportunity to do his Master in Educational Leadership is something Kris recommends to other teachers, especially those with aspirations to move into leadership positions.

“In everyday teaching, you don’t always have the time to reflect on your thinking and your practice,” says Kris.

“Doing assignments can challenge your thinking and encourage you to reflect on why you act a certain way. Being self-reflective improves how we operate as leaders.”

Examining trends in education, and building relationships with other educators were highlights of the Waikato masters programme, which Kris began in 2016.

His first paper on coaching and mentoring “was awesome and supported my role at the time,” recalls Kris, who says putting the research and theory into practice was invaluable.

The next semester, Kris signed up for an Acquiring Numeracy paper - giving him insights he was able to directly apply to a shared collaborative team enquiry into mathematics.

A TeachNZ Teachers’ Study Award enabled him to take study leave for the majority of 2017, to complete his qualification.

“I was able to step back and immerse myself in the study, which was an amazing opportunity,” says Kris, who did his papers online and through the Tauranga campus.

This flexibility was another positive of studying at Waikato for Kris, who started his undergraduate degree in 2000 at the Hamilton campus, before transferring to Tauranga to continue his studies in his second year.

“I’m quite a beach orientated person; I surf a lot, so it was great to live by the beach and continue to study at Waikato at the Tauranga campus.”

Waikato University holds a special place for Kris and his wife Kelly, who both enjoyed studying education there. Kelly is now a teacher at Omanu Primary in Tauranga.

“We’ve both always had a connection to Waikato University. Education is in our blood, it’s who we are,” says Kris, who is a strong advocate of continuing education for teachers.

“I’d definitely recommend the Masters of Educational Leadership to any person that is in an educational setting, whether leadership is a pathway for them or not. It may set up that journey for them or plant the seed for the future.”

Waikato University’s School of Education is ranked in the top 150 in the world, with study options at both the Hamilton and Tauranga campuses, and online.

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