First day teaching within reach

18:45, Jan 31 2014

Size is on the side of a Tararua teacher who will be towering above his classroom this term.

Graduate teacher Ben Valentine is fronting up to his first class of pupils at Ruahine School, in Dannevirke, on Monday. And at 6 feet 11 inches, which is more than 2 metres tall, he has high hopes for the academic year ahead.

The former professional basketballer called it quits on his time on court for a career in teaching.

He's spent the last three weeks making lesson plans and preparing for an influx of 25 Year 7 and 8 pupils next week.

Mr Valentine is nearly twice the height of the 11 and 12-year-olds he'll be teaching but isn't worried, saying he has a list of tricks to overcome the contrast in stature.

"It certainly does help [being tall], but you've got to be mindful of it too, because for some people it can be quite intimidating.


"And especially working with children I'm really conscious of it, so it's really important to get down to their level - I'll be spending a lot of time sitting or on my haunches."

Before turning to teaching Mr Valentine played professional basketball in New Zealand and the United States, including a two-year stint for the Jets and three years playing for Pikeville College in Kentucky.

With a honours degree in business administration and management, as well a diploma in sports and fitness, adding to his new graduate diploma in teaching, Mr Valentine is well versed for managing a crowd of children.

He has been the regional development coach for Basketball Hawke's Bay, organising youth basketball and coaching development, and has run in-school and out-of-school basketball and school holiday programmes, which gave him a taste for teaching.

He received a Prime Minister's Sports Scholarship through Basketball NZ and NZ Academy of Sport High Performance Programme and a basketball scholarship to the states.

"Working in really cut-throat pressure environments has been beneficial for this career path," he said.

Something Mr Valentine hopes will give him the upper hand for his year ahead.

"The unknown factor of running a class, all day, everyday will be challenging.

"On placement we're sort of thrust into somebody else's class, with somebody's rules and somebody's children.

"I'm nervous but also really excited to forge my own identity with a unique group of children.

"It's been a long time from signing on the dotted line [last year] and getting started, but I am raring to go and to adventure into the unknown."

Manawatu Standard