25 Years and Counting

There are not many things at Wairakei Primary School that Diana Fitzsimmons doesn’t know about. As she heads towards her 25 year celebration, I sat down with her for a look back through her time at Wairakei Primary School.

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When I started here in 1998 there were about 160 students, a lot fewer staff and fewer buildings.

Diana has worn, and continues to wear many hats. She started as a parent with her two children attending. She became a parent volunteer then, as she says, “they figured they might as well pay me for the hours I was working.” And the rest they say, is history.

Now Diana works with a variety of students in a variety of roles and brings her own unique sense of humour to the interactions she has with both students and staff.

“When I was at school I didn’t have anyone to help me and left at the age of 15. I enjoy seeing the little steps the students make and giving them opportunities that I never had. It’s kind of nice when I see them downtown as adults and they say hi. I’ve even had some that give me a hug.”

I like working with Mrs Fitzsimmons. I give her a double thumbs up.

She helps me with my maths and to learn my spelling words.

Highlights for Diana include camps to Waihi, Papamoa and MERC where Diana kept everyone fed and watered in her no nonsense, well organised way.

“I’ve always enjoyed our Camps. Pet Days are great too, even though it's a lot of hard work. Everyone has a fun day and it's great to see all the students with their animals around the school.”

The environment has always been a passion for Diana. There are numerous projects that she has been involved in over the years. Some that stand out for her include, facilitating the Enviro programme, setting up and maintaining the Aquaponics unit with the students, working on the Leavers Garden and developing the school’s Brain Maze.

“The Brain Maze was a student initiative  that I supported them with. Three very keen students presented their proposal to the Board of Trustees, and a local parent helped draw the Maze to scale.  Then we had to dig 540 holes and plant 540 native trees. The whole school came out to help with that.  Now over 18 years later, the Brain Maze is a favourite playing spot for this generation of students.”

“Enviro has been a passion. I love seeing the students being proud of their work, able to share their learning and present to outside visitors. As an Enviro team we worked hard along with classes, to gain our Bronze, Silver and Gold Enviro Awards. It's been great seeing different students grow in their understanding and I’m super proud of their achievements.”

Diana is the best work colleague. She is supportive and caring. We have become great friends over the 20 years we have worked together.

Mrs Fitzsimmons has always been so caring and professional in her many many roles at Wairakei Primary. She always has a secret stash of any item you need. She is an amazing work colleague and friend.

Diana is an amazing member of staff. She is a very supportive and caring friend to staff. Students are very lucky to have Diana work with them, whether it is in class or as part of Enviro Group.

Diana has fond memories of the day the present school hall was moved  from across the road to its present place. “It was moved in three parts. The school paid the council  $1.00 with the main funding coming from the Lotteries Board and the Council. Now it is used by the local community and the school.”

Diana is going to spend her long service leave visiting family in Australia. “I’m taking my granddaughter to Australia to visit family that we haven’t seen since Covid.”

Thanks Diana for the many years of service you have given and continue to give Wairakei Primary School. You are our ‘go to gal.’ Congratulations on your 25 year milestone.

2024 Bowler

Gwen Bowler

Education has no beginning and no end. It ebbs and flows and is ever-changing. As an educator, it is my responsibility to instill a love of learning and an ability to adapt to an ever-changing world.

My teaching journey started at 40 when I retrained as a teacher after a career in journalism and many years as a stay-at-home mother. When we guide our students to be lifelong learners, we send them towards their next journey well-prepared for whatever life brings.


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