Teaching is all about the relationships with kids says Taranaki's favourite teacher Sue Gunn

Sue Gunn says she "wouldn't have any other career" after 27 years of teaching.

Sue Gunn says she "wouldn't have any other career" after 27 years of teaching.

FAVOURITE TEACHER AWARDS: From the Christchurch quake tragedy to Parliament's select committees, we're travelling the country to meet some of New Zealand's best teachers.

When Sue Gunn left school in 1985, she says girls had three options: be a bank teller, a nurse or a teacher. "So I went to teacher's college, and absolutely loved it," she said.

Gunn is the Taranaki regional winner of the Favourite Teachers' Award, a partnership between Stuff, TVNZ Breakfast and Matilda, the Musical.

Sue Gunn says the most important part of teaching is connecting with the kids.

Sue Gunn says the most important part of teaching is connecting with the kids.

An experienced and well travelled educator, she has taught for 27 years at a variety of institutions including Matamata School and New Plymouth schools Devon Intermediate, Sacred Heart Girls' College and this year, Spotswood College. 

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She was nominated by former student Megan Hills, whom she taught in year nine at Sacred Heart, for inspiring her and playing an important role in her development.

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"I love getting down to the kids' level, making it realistic for them, making what you're teaching connect with them," Gunn said.

"The other thing that I love about teaching is that I'm continually learning myself."

She married her husband Ross Gunn in 2001 and has a 26-year-old step daughter, Jordan.

Sue Gunn is the Taranaki winner of the Favourite Teachers Awards.

Sue Gunn is the Taranaki winner of the Favourite Teachers Awards.

"If I have a rough day he's the one (Ross) that bears the brunt of it. You've got to have someone you can sound off to outside the school."

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She said the biggest challenge in teaching was the distraction of technology.

"It's wonderful to have technology at your fingertips but I just wish it was for learning."

Gunn said she does keep in touch with many of her former students - often hearing "Hi Mrs Gunn!" yelled across the street.

Several have gone into teaching or teacher's college. She recently ran into a former student working at The Warehouse who came up and gave her a big hug.

"It doesn't make me feel old. It's really cool."

She said teaching at different schools she had often seen former students on honour's boards and would love to know what all of them are doing now.

Gunn teaches English at Spotswood and also runs the Te Waka Awhina programme, supporting kids on individual programmes.

She said she is always thinking about what more she could do for her students.

"You jolly well dream about them. You worry about them."

One of her favourite memories was making an Anzac day for her students.

"The kids, they were the soldiers. They had to have bully beef; they had to have half an Anzac biscuit.

"At Sacred Heart some students had to be refugees."

Another time the kids had to be snipers. Experiencing it for themselves taught them more than watching videos, she said.

"They were totally engrossed and these are kids that don't like reading, and they're reading."

But the biggest thing was the relationship with the students, she said. And even if it doesn't happen you've got to keep trying.

"You've got to form individual relationships with each kid. You've got to break them down and it might take all year but you keep going."

She said to be a good teacher you need to be a good listener.

"You've got to give them the time.

"What you think's going to take five minutes is going to take an hour...and you've got to let it."


Northland: Jenny Bassett
Auckland: Bex Rose
Bay of Plenty: Scott Feisst
Waikato: Richard Lloyd
Hawkes Bay/East Cape: Janene Maloney​
Taranaki: Sue Gunn
​Manawatu/Whanganui: Heidi Lutz
Wellington: Matt Johnston
Nelson: Trina Wilkinson
Marlborough: Robyn Anderson
Canterbury/West Coast: Carmen Street
​South Canterbury/Otago: Di Anderson
Southland: Elaine Forde

 - Sunday Star Times


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