Elmgrove School principal Jenny McDonald is making the most of her time with her pupils before she retires at the end of this year. Photo by Craig Baxter.
When Jenny McDonald came to the Taieri 45 years ago as part
of a ''wee look'' around New Zealand, the last thing she
expected to do was get married and still be there today.
She has spent her entire working life on the Taieri as a
teacher at Outram School, and later as principal of Wyllie's
Crossing and Elmgrove Schools.
But she has decided to call it a day and has announced she
will be retiring at the end of this year.
Born and raised in Northland, she came from Whangarei to
Outram in 1969, where she began her teaching career at the
school, and later her new husband ran the local shop.
Mrs McDonald said she stayed for so long because she became
part of the fabric that made up the community.
''They became my extended family - especially in a place like
Outram, where everybody knew everyone and because my husband
ran the local shop.
''You know everybody.''
While forging a career as a well-respected teacher, Mrs
McDonald also worked hard on her career as a New Zealand
A member of the New Zealand hockey team between 1971 and
1986, she was its captain for six years and a member of the
team that competed at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
Mrs McDonald was also selected to compete at the 1980
Olympics in Moscow but did not attend when New Zealand
boycotted the Games.
''When I finished my hockey career, I decided I needed
So she went to Wyllies Crossing School in pursuit of her
She was acting principal for the first three terms before
being appointed as principal.
However, the school was closed in 2004 as part of the Taieri
''At that stage, Wyllies Crossing, Melville Park and Mosgiel
West were lumped together and we became Elmgrove School, and
I became principal and we've been here ever since.''
Despite not playing hockey any more, she has continued her
association with the sport as coach of the Otago senior
women's team and the New Zealand under-21 team and, more
recently, in administrative roles.
This year, in her 11th year at the school, Mrs McDonald said
she felt the time was right to retire.
The school recently had an extremely positive Education
Review Office report and was in good heart, she said.
''I've got to the stage where I would like some more time for
myself. I'd like to throw away my watch and not go by school
''I've always said, I'll only leave a place if it is the best
it could possibly be.
''Looking forward, the new staff can take it forward to new
places. I think it's important that someone new with the
energy comes in and does that.''
Despite her announcement of retirement, she has made one
''I've retired from my present job as a teacher and as a
principal, but I'm not retiring from life.
''I'm leaving myself open to lots of things.
''I'll have no trouble filling my spare time. At this stage,
I just want to take a break and enjoy having some time and
Mrs McDonald said the thing she would miss most about her job
was the children.
''Every day brings something new and something unexpected,
and something that brings a smile to your face.
"When you work with children, that's just the way it is.
''I think at the end of the day it's the children, watching
them grow and watching them achieve, and for many years
later, following them and seeing where they head and what
''It's very satisfying.''