Retiring principal's road to teaching had many twists and turns

East Otago High School principal and former draper Lennox Sharp will retire in early December.  Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
East Otago High School principal and former draper Lennox Sharp will retire in early December. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

For many East Otago High School pupils, it is probably hard to believe their principal has not always been an educator.

In fact, it is only since Lennox Sharp announced he would retire at the end of this year that many have learned he started his working life in his family's drapery store in Invercargill.

He worked there for many years, but when there was a downturn in business, the family sold up and he went into sales, selling life insurance and real estate.

It was not until ''considerably later'' in life he went into teaching, he said.

''I tried life insurance, I tried real estate, and then one day my wife said, 'You're going to become a teacher'.

''She must have seen something in me that I couldn't see.''

In 1994, he started teachers' college in Invercargill and trained as a secondary teacher.

His first teaching position was at South Otago High School, where he taught geography, social studies and junior economics.

Within a couple of years he became the school's dean of international pupils and in 1998 he became the head of the school's social sciences department.

He was at South Otago for about 15 years, but a desire to pursue new challenges led him to East Otago High School in 2010, where he became the deputy principal and two years later, principal.

To this day, Mr Sharp is grateful his wife encouraged him to take the gamble and retrain as a teacher.

''I've enjoyed every single minute of it.

''When I first started out on life's journey, it [teaching] was a career I had no idea I was going to do.

''I've had many highlights.

''I've loved seeing children develop.

''It's like lighting a flame, in reality. You can't be with kids all the time, but if you light the flame, then they'll develop and prosper themselves.''

He said education was one of the most satisfying career pathways because ''you're actually trying to help shape the future of the country''.

''The future of New Zealand is in great hands. The young kids today are just amazing.''

Mr Sharp said he did not have any plans for his retirement yet.

Initially, he hopes to spend more time with family while ''taking stock'' of his situation.

''We'll just see what comes our way.''

Former Oxford Area School deputy principal Marcus Cooper will take over as principal of East Otago.


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