No regrets as Maree signs off

Maree Woodall at her school farewell, flanked by current Cambridge East principal Hamish Fenemor (left) and former school principal John Bullick.

Departing Cambridge East School assistant principal Maree Woodall is going to be sorely missed for a host of reasons it seems … her drive and passion for the kids, her “full-steam ahead” approach to anything and everything.

Then there’s her sense of humour, and oh yes, the talking. Glancing at husband Bryan during her farewell last Friday, Maree rather tellingly said: “You know those 10,000 words I use at work, well from now on …”

So, things are clearly going to be a lot quieter at the school from now on; perhaps not so much for builder Bryan, it should be said. The couple are headed to Whitianga before Christmas, taking this next stage of their life to the Coromandel and whatever awaits them up there. For the school, however, this is much more than just losing a teacher and assistant principal. It’s like losing a whole family. That’s because Maree, Bryan and their three grown boys – Izac, Jordan and Mason – were pupils, and Bryan has done a raft of work in the school grounds through the decades.

Rotorua-born Maree admits she will miss it all. “This has been my primary school since I was eight. It’s ended up being more of a lifestyle than a career for me, one that I chose and that I’m immensely proud of.

“I’m really going to miss the children, watching them grow … and I’ll miss my awesome colleagues. I’m going to miss the professional growth the senior management team has given me. They’ve pushed my thinking so much, helped me grow as an educator.”

Maree qualified as a teacher in Waikato, then worked at Te Awamutu Intermediate School for just over a decade before joining Cambridge East School 16 years ago. She quickly moved from a part-time to a full-time role, teaching across the grade levels and going on to lead the school’s SENCO team – as Special Education Needs Coordinator. Two years ago, she became assistant principal.

She said the wellbeing of the children she works with has always been at the centre of everything she has done individually, and is at the heart of team efforts at Cambridge East.

“Fundamentally every child deserves the right to education and the chance to learn.  Teaching allows you to do the best with what you have got. It is really important to us here that no-one gets left behind – everybody belongs to the Cambridge East community. That has always driven me; it’s a huge mission, a huge job. I’ve never regretted going into it for a second.”

She takes a positive approach to increased technology in teaching and the changing classroom environment, viewing the changes as opportunities to better prepare today’s children for a working world that didn’t exist when she started out.

Maree has chalked up a few catchphrases for herself, particularly among her colleagues.  She’s known as ‘short straw’ because she’s always the go-to person for queries of all sorts. But it’s her ‘so what, now what’ approach to moving past a problem to identifying a solution that has stuck with everyone the most.

She will leave a great deal of herself behind at Cambridge East – not the least of which is a Bryan-crafted coffee table on which is printed a circle of Maree’s favourite Dr Seuss sayings.

Maree Woodall leaves an imprint on her colleagues and school families. Here are some of their thoughts:

“Maree is the person who always goes the extra mile. She has been instrumental in helping the school challenge traditional the traditional model and move into new ways of learning.  She also talks flat out … and doesn’t suffer fools. It gets under her skin when things don’t go right for our learners – she wears that close to the surface.” – Cambridge East principal, Hamish Fenemor.

“The skills she has, her commitment is absolutely huge. Nothing is too much trouble … and her sense of humour is top notch. Her departure will leave a hole in the school and in the community.” – John Bullick, previous Cambridge East principal.

“Having Maree around is like having an extra mum for your kids. We never have to worry.” –  Cambridge East mum.

“Everyone adds something to the school, but Maree adds a really special flavour. She is a special kind of individual … one of those unsung heroes.” – School BOT member, Dylan Newbold.

“Maree goes full steam ahead at everything. She has immense drive, incredible passion.” – Cambridge East colleague.

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