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Thinking outside the box inspires new teacher 

Wednesday 25 May 2022 3:02pm


Nō Bennydale, No Taupō ōku tīpuna Māori.
Engari, I tipu aku ahau kei konei, ki Ōtepoti i te taha ō taku taha whānau pākehā.

Ko Tainui te Waka
Ko Hoturoa te Tangata
Ko Kakepuku te Maunga
Ko Pūniu te Awa
Ko Maniapoto te Iwi
Ko Pare te Kawa te Hapū
Ko Mangatoatoa te Marae

Ko Te Arawa te Waka
Ko Tama te Kapua te Tangata
Ko Tongariro te Maunga
Ko Taupō te Moana
Ko Tuwharetoa te Iwi
Ko Ngāti Kōhera te Hapū
Ko Mōkai te Marae

From the logistics of imports and exports to inspiring tamariki in the classroom, College of Education graduate Sherman Weatherall says his atypical journey to teaching has taught him many valuable lessons.

Sherman (Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) now teaches years 7 and 8 at Dunedin North Intermediate (DNI).

Dunedin-born, Sherman was educated at Henley School, and then The Taieri High School. Although he gained a bursary and began first-year studies at Otago, he withdrew to care for his Nana in Mosgiel.

“Behind her house was the Mosgiel Woollen Mill. I started work there as an 18-year-old to contribute financially. Being one of a few people there that was able to use a computer competently, I soon was promoted to working in the export documentation department, preparing commercial documents for the Mill’s exports.”

He became fascinated with international logistics and after leaving the Mill to work for its freight forwarder, worked his way up to Branch Manager.
While his career was rewarding – he says receiving the Supreme award for Excellence in Distribution & Logistics at the 2018 Westpac Otago Chamber of Commerce Business excellence Awards gave him a great sense of achievement – Sherman realised he’d have to move from Dunedin to further his logistics career.

“I wasn’t willing to do this for whānau ora reasons. I was fortunate to receive an Outward Bound Masters Experience for my 40th birthday, and during the three-day "Going Solo" activity we were given the task of evaluating our life and to think about the "Big Rocks" in our lives.

Sherman other graduands at the Māori pre-grad event

“Through that process I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for my children, then gratitude for the positive difference some special teachers had made on their lives. That activity ignited a desire to be one of those special teachers that could make a positive difference in other children's lives.”

Another powerful driver was his experience as Māori growing up in a predominantly Pākehā community, and the negativity he encountered throughout his education.

“I had a desire to create a more positive and meaningful experience for other tamariki and to put myself in a position to influence others. I saw teaching as a way to increase awareness and foster understanding.”

Sherman had “always been in awe of Otago” and many respected friends and acquaintances have graduated from the University.

“It has mana to me. Since pulling out of Otago University in my younger years, I often recalled some wise words from a loved uncle, they were "Anyone can start something, but not many finish it". I do not regret leaving Otago University previously, but I always knew I started something which I never finished.”

Although he’d received a Bachelor of Applied Management - Sales & Marketing through CapableNZ, he describes the Master of Teaching and Learning program as a “huge step up”.

“I had to learn how to learn just to understand some of the course content, and it was challenging to understand what was required. I was under immense pressure. I had left the corporate world with a well-paying job and flash car and the security it brings to a whānau with three children and a mortgage. I was fortunate enough to be selected for Te Huawhiti Career Changer Scholarship, however a condition was I had to pass or pay all funds back. Aue.”

Despite the loss of financial security and steep learning curve, Sherman says the rewards far outweighed the challenges.

“The lecturers were the difference for me. They were real people, with hearts and a passion for improving the lives of all tamariki in NZ. They were all extremely considerate in the diversity and special nature of all communities, whānau of tamariki in Aotearoa.”

Sherman also mihis to his “brothers and sisters” – his Master of Teaching and Learning (Primary) cohort – for their support and aroha and the total support from his wife Katy Weatherall.

Sherman with whānau on graduation day

He describes teaching at DNI as “magical”, because the pupils are interested in a range of subjects.

“I’m grateful everyday – I have the future of Aotearoa in front of me. They come from different walks of life, and they all bring something different to the classroom each day. Teaching is very dynamic and there’s different experiences each day. I work with amazing people who each bring many different skills, knowledge and experiences to the table. It's a feast every day. To see students’ progress, and how proud they are when they accomplish their goals, fills my cup.”

As a new teacher Sherman is focused on “getting the basics right,” and creating a safe and comfortable space where ākonga can “make mistakes and grow”.

“I have been fortunate to be able to contribute to the school’s Reo Rua Programme where we focus on Te Ao Māori. I really enjoyed the research aspect of the master’s program and aim to regularly include research to guide my practice. I have a desire to be part of a bi-lingual Intermediate class in Dunedin. I believe this might be the first, bridging the gap and supporting our Te reo speaking ākonga between primary and secondary School.”