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Whaea Jeannie Apthorp is retiring after “30-odd” years at Thames South School. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Teacher bids farewell to Thames South

Every time Jeannie Apthorp walks into the grounds of Thames South School, she sees the pohutukawa and the citrus trees, and in spring, the daffodils that border the fenceline.
She’s had her hand in many of the kura’s projects, from its Trees for Survival education programme, and its soon-to-be-established Pataka Kai.
She has been at the school on Rolleston St for “30-odd” years, and come December 15, she’ll be retiring, but it’s not that easy to take her heart out of “the school with heart”, she told The Profile.
Whaea Jeannie is Te Kura o Te Kauaeranga’s deputy principal, and she teaches the junior school, from new entrants up to Year 4.
The school is unique in that it has three learning pathways: full immersion te reo Māori, bilingual, and English. They also have two Goldfields Special School satellite classrooms.
“We try really hard to find that spark [in a child]. We call it the school with heart, and you’ll notice that everyone cares about everyone else.”
Whaea Jeannie said giving back was a “huge” part of the school’s ethos, and that would continue with the kura’s new goal of creating a Pātaka Kai.
She had a hand in planting kai with the tamariki, and the school was now able to look at sharing it in its Pātaka Kai, which was an idea from members of the school community, including parents, board members, and staff.
The kura has vegetable gardens, and an orchard, as well as apricot and citrus trees that produce fruit all year round.
It has also been a part of the Trees for Survival programme for a number of years, and provides free school lunches to every child, every day.
“I’ve been involved in most things because I’m a gardener, I love gardening, so for me, seeing the grounds mature [has been a highlight],” Whaea Jeannie said.
“The only trees left from when I started here are the rimu and the totara trees, and the oaks, but basically every other plant or tree here is what the children and the parent support team have grown over the years.
“I walk in, and it just lifts your spirits, and for many children at our schools, gardening is not a thing that happens so much, so if they’re a nature-smart child, this is the place they can put their hands in the soil and watch things grow, and for some of them, that’s their ‘thing’.”
Some of the plants around the school have been planted in remembrance, like the daffodils that line the fence and bloom every year.
They were donated by staff members who had been impacted by cancer.
At the front of the school there is also a small pohutukawa tree with a plaque underneath it, in memory of a staff member’s daughter.
There is also a seat near some of the classrooms, donated by a family who relocated to New Zealand from overseas.
Whaea Jeannie said she’d seen the school grow in spirit over the 30 years she’d taught there, and felt like she could “teach forever”.
“But there has to be a time where you’ve got to just let it go,” she said.
“There’s a brand new journey happening at school and it’s the perfect time for the new deputy to begin this journey.
“It’s been ever-changing, nothing stays still, change is constant, and this is kind of like the end of one change, and the beginning of another.
“For me, the signs were perfectly aligned for my time, but that’s not to say that Thames South is not with you forever. My heart will always be here.”