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Ngaire Harris has become Hauraki Plains College’s longest serving principal. Photo: SUPPLIED

From cowshed to college’s long-serving principal

Ngaire Harris began her teaching career in a cowshed. Now, she’s become Hauraki Plains College’s longest serving principal.
Mrs Harris’ stint in education began 30 years ago – she had no training as a teacher but then-principal Norman Pratt approached her to ask if she could help out when he was short of staff.
“Between helping on our dairy farm and bringing up four kids, I spent a lot of time tutoring maths at home. Norman literally parked outside the cowshed and insisted I get out of my overalls and give it a go,” she told The Profile. “It changed everything.”
From that point and until she became principal 20 years ago, she taught both history and maths, saying she enjoyed the change of pace these subjects provided.
She still tutors her grandchildren and gets back into the classroom if the college is short of a teacher. She also runs every morning.
“[Running] keeps me sane and gives me thinking time to figure out the day,” she said.
The past few years have been challenging for the education sector and for the Ngatea school. Some students were stuck on the other side of the Auckland border during the Covid-19 restrictions.
Mrs Harris was one of five college staff who crossed the border to help the students complete their NCEA qualifications.
“In any time of change, you have to step out on a ‘maybe’ – often an idea or impression about something that strengthens and persists with no guaranteed outcome,” she said.
“One’s leadership decisions get judged on uncertain outcomes, but you have to be courageous and clear in spite of that. When the decision turns out not to be right, then you have to front up to the fall-out and learn to live with that.”
But Mrs Harris’ highlights throughout her 30-year career was “undoubtedly” seeing the students leave school each year “with a sense of purpose and direction”.
“I love hearing how their lives unfold,” she said. “And often it is the little things that count; the student who says thank you or the parent who acknowledges the hard work.
“Schools are definitely a collaborative effort and I’ve had great support over the years from boards and staff.”
Mrs Harris, who admits to being “fiercely” proud of her nine grandchildren, said she felt very privileged to serve the HPC community.
“Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly is what I try to live by,” she said.