Andrew Barnett didn't know what he wanted to do when he left school, so he embarked on a series of jobs in retail and construction in New Zealand and Australia before heading to the UK.
There he worked at Legoland and as a lab technician in a high school science department before becoming a one-to-one teaching assistant, supporting students with special education needs.
“After three years and many development courses, I asked myself, why be the assistant at the back of the class with one student when I could be up front teaching 30?”
Andrew returned to Invercargill and enrolled at the University of Otago's College of Education, Southland Campus, which offers training in early childhood, primary teaching and bicultural primary programmes.
“Southland has a good reputation for catering to a diverse range of students rather than the majority of students having recently completed high school. The cost of living was good and I had the support of family and friends nearby.
“Lecturers and library staff were amazing. They had an open door policy and were always there if you had questions. You're not just a number and you build relationships.”
Of 23 graduates, Andrew was one of only four men. “It's a pity there are not more male primary teachers.
“I encourage more men to get into teaching. It's very rewarding to experience that light-bulb moment when a student gets what you're teaching them.”
Andrew's glad he didn't rush into a degree just for the sake of it. “Work and travel teach you about life. You realise what you really want to study at university.”
He found full-time work at Windsor North School in Invercargill immediately after his Bachelor of Teaching (Primary Education).
“Maturity and life skills are important advantages to bring to the classroom. Now I want to gain experience, work my way up and see where it takes me. I want to be the best teacher I can be.”