Wellington and Wairarapa's favourite teacher Matt Johnston gets the best out of his students

Matt Johnston of Pukerua Bay School was voted Wellington/Wairarapa's favourite teacher.
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

Matt Johnston of Pukerua Bay School was voted Wellington/Wairarapa's favourite teacher.

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.

Matt Johnston wants to talk about disobedient teaching.

The 48-year-old Pukerua Bay School teacher is a champion for recognising and celebrating qualities in kids that often fly under the radar of the National Standards curriculum.

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Johnston was recently named the Wellington/Wairarapa winner of the Favourite Teacher Awards, a partnership between Stuff, TVNZ Breakfast and Matilda, the Musical. The overall winner will be named on Sunday.

He has been teaching since 1993, starting with a stint at Hampton Hill School in Tawa then at Hataitai School, and has spent the last few years working wonders for about 180 kids between Years 1 to 8 near the Kapiti Coast.

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Kids enjoy Pukerua Bay School's Village Fair last year. [FILE PHOTO]
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Kids enjoy Pukerua Bay School's Village Fair last year. [FILE PHOTO]

He loves the way Pukerua Bay School principal Tara Taylor-Jorgensen believes in empowering teachers to take risks.

"She talks about disobedient teaching. The fact that you don't just comply."

National Standards assessments cover reading, writing and maths, but don't tell parents much about how their kids are developing as people.

Pukerua Bay School pupils Ben, Billy, Alex and Paikea enjoyed building with recycled pallets. [File Photo]
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Pukerua Bay School pupils Ben, Billy, Alex and Paikea enjoyed building with recycled pallets. [File Photo]

"That's to our detriment. The idea of telling a child that you're well-below standard... is heart-breaking.

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"I'm not going to tell you how fantastic you are musically or how you always make sure that other kids feel good when they're down... I'm going to tell you that you're below standard in maths.

"We need to be honest about where kids are at, but there's more than three things that we should be looking at."

His school is aiming to develop a wider range of values.

"[We're] developing a set of values that we think all kids need.

"In assemblies we're valuing different areas, such as their ability to work with others. Their team-work. Kids who might have fostered and really worked hard as a team on something are recognised and given a cup which goes home with them."

It's called KURA: Kindness, Unity, Responsibility and Achievement.

"The biggest one is getting them to that head space where they can try something, and take some risks rather than going 'I'm no good at this'.

"I can try this, develop this, and get better. If you're telling yourself you can't do it, you won't."

FAVOURITE TEACHER AWARDS REGIONAL WINNERS

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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