Week 1  -  Term 1  -  2019

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Calendar of Events - through to early Term 2:


Kia Ora, Talofa Lava, Malo e Lelei, Bula, Namastē, Namaskar, Kia Orana, Taloha Ni, Aloha Mai E, Fakaalofa Lahi Atu, ‘Alii, Malo Ni, Halo Aloketa Aloha, Nī Hāo, Sawatdeekhrap  Sabaidi, Terve, Dobradan, Bonjour, Hola, Guten Tag, Ciao, Salaam, Olā, Zdravstvuyte, Konnichiwa, Ahn Young Ha Se Yo, Hoi, Merhaba, Jambo, Yasou, Shalom, Salamat Siang, Ahoj, Xin Chāo, Sawubona, Bok, Yiassoo, Hej, Dia Dhaoibh, Cham Reap Sour, Hoi, Vanakkam.


Kia Ora Koutou - Greetings - Welcome to 2019 at WHS:


Welcome back to all our whanau. It is energising and exciting to be back and to see lots of familiar faces as well as lots of new ones too.

We welcome four new teachers and a new Caretaker - more on that below.

We also welcome lots of new children - some who recently turned five, and others who have joined us from other schools. Already we have a roll of 641 children. When I started here we were starting with about 480 children, so we are growing steadily. We are already well past our maximum end of year roll of just two years ago. 15 more children join us in about a month’s time and there are plenty more to come. This growth is putting real pressure on our accommodation so I am pleased the Ministry have agreed to meet with me to discuss this later this month.

Above Right: some of our new children gathered in our Office foyer.                                                                        At Right: our first Whanau gathering on Monday to welcome all our new family members.


Welcome To Our New WHS Family Members:


Vicki Nabete comes to us with a history of quality teaching and leadership roles both here and in China. Vicki was a senior teacher here in Auckland before moving to China for some cool leadership opportunities there. Vicki has particular strengths in Inquiry Learning, Higher Order Thinking and Literacy.

Vicki is the proud mum of four boys - great preparation for a life of teaching - who leave her little time for hobbies other than swimming (including harbour swims).

Vicki is teaching year two children in room seven. This in place of Lisa Pasalic who has taken a year’s leave to travel the world. More on that below.

Sudeera Perera is a Beginning Teacher who joins us after a successful career as an accountant, but where he didn’t feel he was being true to his calling. Clearly we agree and are delighted to welcome Sudeera to our awesome teaching team. Sudeera was offered two permanent positions elsewhere, but chose a Fixed Term position with us instead. Sudeera is teaching year 3 and 4 in room 12.

Sudeera has a passion for Social Sciences, Environmental Education and Maths. Gardening is Sudeera’s main hobby.

Kassandra King is persistent. She wanted a job here so much she gave up a permanent position elsewhere to take a fixed term one here. 

To be honest, we have wanted Kassandra for some time too - after having her do day relief teaching here, we knew she was a first class teacher.

Kassandra has a passion for Literacy, Science, Maths and PE. Kassandra’s hobbies are running and fitness, netball and reading. 

Nicole Nicholson joins us as a Beginning Teacher under a special scheme offered by the Ministry of Education and the Auckland Primary Principal’s Association. Under this scheme half the cost of Nicole’s first year here is covered. There was a very limited number of these positions, which we applied for, and were very fortunate to win. 

Nicole is awesome. She has so much enthusiasm and passion and was offered positions elsewhere but chose us.

Nicole’s strengths are Science and Drama.

Her hobbies are Power Lifting and baking.

Nicole is originally from Kaitaia and has two boys - aged 10 and 12.


At a time when so many schools are unable to find teachers, or are having to appoint teachers from overseas (who to be honest do not know our system or our culture), it is wonderful to have so many awesome teachers who want so much to be here at Western Heights. As parents, this should give you further cause for great confidence in our systems and values. 


We also welcome Katherine Walsh to our staff whanau. Many of you will know Katherine (known as Kat) from her many years at the Palomino Coffee Shop. After buying a four-shot Flat White from her every day for five years, I got to know Kat and her personal qualities pretty well. Kat is enthusiastic, outgoing, kind and very hard working. She will be an awesome addition to our team.

Kat worked at Palomino Cafe for nine years, but has been a barista for 16.

Her hobbies are walking the dog, family and baking.

Kat is really excited to be here and is learning new aspects of her role every day.


We must also mention our thanks to Mina Andrews, our retiring Caretaker, who gave over 30 years of loyal service to our school. Mina worked hard right up to her last day and her last two weeks were spent working alongside Kat helping her learn the ropes. Kia Ora Mina - thank you - and haere ra - a fond farewell.


Meet Our Teachers Evening:


Next Tuesday, February 12, we have our annual meet Our Teachers evening at Western Heights.

You are all warmly invited to attend this evening, and if you can’t be there for the whole evening, you are most welcome however much time you can spare.

We are really proud of our school, and for good reason. We are officially in the top ten percent of schools in New Zealand. While this makes us proud, we never sit back and rest, rather we are always looking to improve. One of our mottos is “Better than Before”, a focus that ensures we are always striving to be the best we can be.

At our Meet Our Teachers evening I will spend a few minutes sharing our reasons for adopting a new maths programme this year - PR1ME Maths. We are really excited about this programme and know it will make a big difference to our children’s understanding and mastery of maths concepts and skills.


I will also be sharing some of our reasoning and thinking behind a different approach to learning in our junior school, which also has some carry-over through the rest of our school.

The removal of National Standards testing and expectations has been one of the best things to happen to education in the last decade. The research is incontrovertible - putting pressure on little children to read and write before they are ready does terrible damage.

Sure with intensive effort we can have children reading and writing by the time they start school, putting them ahead of most of their peers. What the research shows though is those gains disappear within one to four years. So after a year or two that advantage is completely gone. Sadly though, that brief advantage causes huge problems.

Research shows beyond doubt that those children who learn to read and write early will be:

Caught up to within a year or two

Less creative

Less engaged in their learning 

Less enthusiastic about school

Less confident about themselves and their learning

More susceptible to anxiety - especially in their teenage years

More prone to suicidal thoughts and tendencies

Earn less than their peers from age 30 onwards

Much more likely to get into trouble with the law or be incarcerated

More likely to be unemployed

Clearly this is not something we want for our children, yet the trap is so easy to fall into. We live in an ever more competitive society. We look at children learning letters and words at Kindy and think, our child is missing out, I need to push them to ensure they don’t get left behind. Sadly, this thinking is very, very wrong. The most successful school systems start children later, they focus on structured and free play in the early years, on exploration and ‘provocation questions’ that encourage child to be curious, to experiment, to find out and to learn without realising they are doing so.

I will share lots more on this over the course of this year.

Broadly speaking, this focus on Social-Emotional Learning and Play-Based Learning forms a large part of my Masters in Contemporary Education research, so I will have plenty to share.


Meet Our Teachers Timetable:

5 pm-6 pm        Picnic for families

6 pm                   Meet in our hall with principal

6.45 to 7 pm     Syndicate teams sharing time

7 pm                    Teachers in classrooms sharing


Other Attractions on the Night Include:

Bouncy Castle       Purdon’s Food Cart

Coffee Cart             Candy Floss

Donuts                     Mr Whippy Ice Cream


First Day of School Photo Montage:


Beautiful weather, beautiful grounds, beautiful children, bright classrooms and brilliant teachers - off to an awesome start at WHS in 2019.


Getting 2019 Off To A Great Start:


Relationships are everything when it comes to learning. 

Again, the research is unequivocal - the better the relationship between the child and their teacher, the more powerful, effective and long-lasting the learning will be.

At Western Heights we understand this better than most. We operate as a big, extended family.


We apply the spirit of the Education Act 1989 - "In Loco Parentis". This phrase is Latin for “Parent In Place”. I believe naming the Education Act in this way was an inspired decision. We take this at face value and treat every child in our school as our own son or daughter. Consider what this means. Every child in our care is our own ‘flesh and blood' and we must love them, care for them and nurture them as such - every single day, every single child.


The first few weeks of 2019 will therefore be focussed on relationship building - getting to know every child in our classes and in our care and connecting with them so that we can ensure every member of our whanau feels safe, loved and encouraged to be the best they can be.

PS: Remember you are most valued members of our WHS whanau too, so make yourself at home here. My office door is (almost) always open and I welcome parents popping if for a chat, a catch-up, some advice, or to address a concern.


Pay It Forward Follow Up:


Each year Western Heights School supports the NZME Special Children’s Christmas Party, held at the ASB Auckland Showgrounds. Last year it was held on Saturday December 15.

Our Board made a commitment to contribute to this worthy cause as our school “Pay It Forward”. Below is the letter of thanks we received. 

 This report is a reduced copy of a full-page colour ad that appeared in the NZ Herald on Wednesday the 9  January 2019 and includes the logos of the major sponsors.

This amazing day gave over 2,000 children with life threatening diseases, intellectual or physical disabilities, or those living in disadvantaged circumstances, a day they will never forget. The children were sourced through over 400 local schools and various Government, community and charitable organisations that are involved with these children on a day to day basis.


It was a fun filled 3 and a half hours for the children. Words cannot explain what this days means to the children and their families, so please click on this link for our Special Children's Christmas Party Facebook page to like our page and to see some photos and videos from our event so you can see what your support helped make possible!

The highlight of the day was when Santa arrived to greet the excited crowd. It was then off to the Santa’s toy cave filled with around 8,000 amazing presents! Here, every child (according to 5 different age groups) personally met with Santa and received 3 or 4 quality gifts to call their own. The gifts this year included soft cuddly toys, iPianos, camp sets, crystaland blocks, space gyroscopes, ice-cream machines, chariot trucks …and many more!

Since the event we have received many phone calls, letters and cards thanking sponsors and the helpers for an unforgettable day. Many parents describing how it was the best day in their child’s life, to quote one Mum… “creating one memory of happiness that lessens the impact of the other things he has endured for the previous months”.

Without the generous support of the business community from Auckland region and all the helpers and volunteer groups who assisted on the day, this event simply wouldn’t be possible. On behalf of the children and their families who attended the party we would like to extend our personal thank you to YOU!


Kindness - Our Focus For Term One:


Last year in his farewell speech after three years at Western Heights, Stuart Jones reminded us of the importance of kindness - kindness to ourselves, kindness to others, kindness to animals and kindness to the planet.

He is a wise man and as a staff we have taken his message fully to heart.

We do address kindness in many ways  - through Bucket Filling, the Love in Love to Learn to Lead and through our focus on  Pay It Forwards for every class every year. We also focus on Empathy and Service Leadership and one of our five  Pōhatu Tūmu (Foundation Value Stones) is Manaakitanga, which can be translated as Kindness.

My goal is to see Kindness become the Lingua Franca (meaning the language we all speak) of WHS - something that we will address and aspire to every day.

We would love your support in encouraging your child to be kind - and if they do so in a special way, we’d love you to share it with us - send an email and photo to me at macash@mac.com


Tour Diary Snippets and Stories 


Italy and Spain - continued:

Hopefully you don’t mind if I finish off my Woolf Fisher Tour Diary from last year.

I have been surprised to hear from a lot of parents that they have enjoyed reading the diary. On that basis I will finish off the diary over the next few newsletters. Feel free to skip these by all means.


Following on then, we went from Capri to Rome and from there to Valencia.

Our cousins have a place in Cuella - 40 minutes out of Valencia and right on the beach. Their apartment overlooks a derelict  Bull Fighting ring. Cousin wants to turn it into an open-air movie theatre for the little town, with sound via Bluetooth so as not to upset the non movie attending locals.

Anyway, first night and they buy us a couple of drinks and I drift into another room in the bar to catch the football. After a while I need the bathroom so in my best Spanish I ask the guy how to get to the Men’s Room. After three attempts I am getting nowhere and the need to get an answer is growing. 

A guy at the bar then asks me in English what I am after. I tell him, and he says well you just asked for directions to the Pasta, the Rice and a Horse. No wonder I was getting confused looks from the barman.

A couple of days later Jacq had a hair appointment but our cousin had locked us in the fifth floor apartment so we were  stuck. He eventually came home and let us out and I used Google Translate to explain to he Hairdresser why we were late for the appointment. It seemed strange to me they were having trouble understanding what the app had translated. 

Anyway, later that day I was in a shop looking for a card and used the Google Translate app again. The shopkeeper looked utterly confused then told me in French that I have translated my request into Italian instead of Spanish. No wonder the Hairdressers were struggling. 

The shopkeeper was Spanish but spoke perfect French, and I had enough French for us to make the purchase and have a wee chat.

In Italy you pay for the toilet - 50 Euro cents a time and in most they have a lady collecting your money. In one place I went in, paid my coins and went into the Ladies’ room instead of the Men's. The poor lady came in all flustered and did a good job getting me out before I caused a diplomatic incident.

Valencia is stunning. We spent one of our days there on a bike tour - seven hours in total - and it was so much fun. Valencia has such an amazing mix of ancient and new. The Museum of Science and Art is a building of supreme elegance and beauty, as is the National Opera House. At the same time there are the two original Town Gate Towers - over 750 years old. The towers are so tall and the spiral stone staircase to get to the top of the Keep is incredible. As is the view from up there - though wouldn’t you know it, in one direction you look out and down to a building with a large window completely covered by an Aussie flag.

The main beach in Valencia is another stunner, as was the temperature of 43 degrees mid afternoon. At 6pm the sun was still intense - like midday - and the temperature was still 40 degrees.

Cousin has also bought a home in the mountains. It’s 40 minutes from Valencia - due west. They went out there because their Bank told them of a house going for 15,000 Euros in a mortgagee sale. In the end it would have been a bit too much work to do up so they bought another one out there for 35,000 Euros. It too needs some work but it’s three stories high, backs onto the hill up in the highest end of the town, is set on a corner, is a few minutes up from a brilliant, clean, fresh, crisp river that is full of trout, damned for swimming and just totally cool. The locals treat it just like the beach in the mountains (low mountains).

Valencia is beautiful. It has everything that you would want in a big city like Madrid, but without the masses of tourists and people. It is a beautiful, safe, hot and historic city. One of its great features is the cycle ways all through the city. They have made a massive investment in them and the systems to support them are brilliant. It’s the most cycle friendly city I have come across. Another cool aspect is the original storm drain that ran right through the city - about 35 kilometres in length.

This has been turned into a giant park that has a cycle way its whole length, gardens, fountains, open air amphitheatres and so much more. One of the best features to a city I have come across - particularly because it runs right through the whole city, rather than featuring in the centre like Hagley Park in Christchurch or Central Park New York for instance.

On our last day we were off to the airport just after 4am. The following day was another 4am start, with a two and a half hour flight to Istanbul, followed by a three hour layover before an 11 hour flight to Boston. A couple of long days.


Community News:


Playball West Auckland:

Playball is an introduction to eight different sports - Football, Basketball, Netball, Cricket, Baseball, Tennis, Hockey and Rugby.

For all Year 1, 2 and 3 students:

Our aim is not to create superstars, but rather to provide children with the opportunity to develop a host of necessary social, educational and personal skills by giving children competence and confidence in sport.

Playball for term one will commence on Thursday  14 February from 3:15 pm - 4:00 pm.

We will be limiting spaces to 36 children for term one. Signing up prior to the start date is essential 

Ask about a free trial today. 

To enrol your child/children please sign up online


Any queries please call James on 027-481-7000 or email james@playball.co.nz


Catch Ups:


Gong Hei Fa Choy

Happy New Year: 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)

Next Friday - 15 February - we are celebrating Chinese New Year at Western Heights. We will celebrate this at our Whanau Time - starting at 9:40 sharp.

We encourage children to wear red or gold - though please do not go out and buy anything special. See you on Friday.


Personal News:

My son Tiaki gave me a very special Christmas present - his Ta Moko (tattoo).

Last Christmas we each got our first Ta Moko from Steve Piunga Smith (Manaia Moko) in Gisborne.

Tiaki designed his Ta Moko in art class at Auckland Grammar - and I loved it. Mine tells the story of my whanau and includes a turtle which has always been an important creature to me.

This year Tiaki had my Ta Moko carved on his right calf and I had his carved on my right calf. We are now connected in another special and culturally important way, and are both very proud.

My wife Jacq also got a Ta Moko - again representing all the elements of her and our whanau. It is only stage one, but looks really cool.


Thursday’s Thoughts:


“We can because we think we can.”               Virgil

“The better I get, the more I realise how much better I can get.”                                               Martina Navratilova


Welcome to our Newest Western Heights Whanau:


The warmest of warm Western Heights welcomes to

Bailey Ewart, Dion Ewart, Hedy Zuo, Zephaniah Nabete, Elijah Nabete, Quinesha Martin-Midwood, Mia Friedenthal, Kaytlyn Lin, Nelson Liu, Samira Pomeroy, Jiya Patel, Manhalah Adil, Mercedes Sharkey, Amy Wang, Alfie Webb, Tyler Nicholson, Imogen Clark, Alessio Tronchin, Sharon Maccanico, Madeleine Saull, Reyan Kapoor, Gion Dalauidao, Chahat Naidu, Keith Xu, Zoe Xu, Kofi Dlamini, Walid Boukir, Aishani Kumar, Caden Sellars, Johnson Chang, Charlotte Auty, Alex Guo, Benjamin Paul, Ryley Ahmu, Lisa-Marie Masiutama, Ayaan Ahluwalia, Jaisvi Naidu, Keita Lewis, Kendra Scally-Tui, Adwaith Menon, Mikayla Bradshaw, Lucas Read, Jan Viljoen, Isabella Theunissen, Terily Nicholls, Seprion Nicholls, Pelela Nicholls, Jacob Hutchinson, Zeling Long, Angie Chen, Vicky Li and Eliaba Nichollsall. 

We are delighted to have you join our Western Heights whanau and hope and trust you all feel right at home here.


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Western Heights School

126 Sturges Road


Auckland 0612

P -  09 8361213

E -  macash@mac.com

M - 021 779 009

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