Waitaki ex-pupil returns as teacher

Jordan Horrell stands outside the Hall of Memories at Waitaki Boys' High School. PHOTO: JULES CHIN
Jordan Horrell stands outside the Hall of Memories at Waitaki Boys' High School. PHOTO: JULES CHIN
Starting as the new English teacher for Waitaki Boys’ High School this year means Jordan Horrell has come full circle.

Mr Horrell, head boy in 2009, has returned to Oamaru to make his teaching dream come true and to give back to his much-loved school.

As a "proud old boy" he had kept his eye on the school news for the last 15 years with the idea that he would "end up teaching back here at some point".

"This school and the community gave me a lot growing up, so a big part of it is giving back and getting to be part of a place that has always meant a lot to me," he said.

Mr Horrell "loved" his days at Waitaki Boys’ and said teaching was something he wanted to do from an early age.

He wanted to create the type of experiences he had at school for his pupils and said the school provided great opportunities for boys.

"I had great teachers and I had a great time at school. So I guess I’m trying to continue that.

"I am blown away by everything that this school has for boys."

After finishing at Waitaki Boys’ Mr Horrell completed a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Otago with honours in English and did a master’s of teaching in his fifth year. He then went on to teach at Christchurch Boys’ High School for nearly six years.

In early to mid 2020, Mr Horrell followed his partner to the Kapiti Coast. Teaching jobs were scarce due to Covid and he decided to take a job that eventually landed him in the world of politics.

He worked for the Ministry of Education in Wellington for two and a-half years, where he started out in communications and then worked in a curriculum development role that he says aligned with his teaching background.

"That was a much more natural fit and I really enjoyed that."

He landed an opportunity in a temporary role as private secretary for then associate minister for education Jan Tinetti.

"As a big politics nerd it was very cool getting to say I worked at the Beehive.

"It was fun and potentially I could have done it for longer but teaching called."

Mr Horrell said he loved reading and talking about books and writing.

His past teaching and school experience had made him passionate about engaging with pupils and the practical application of teaching.

"I always felt like I was treated as an adult and given space to become an adult through school.

"That’s more my approach to teaching English as well. Most of all, I care about getting the boys engaged in reading and writing and having opinions on things."

Mr Horrell said some standout memories for his time as a pupil included the annual Waitaki Boys’-St Kevin’s College rugby match, playing Hawke Cup cricket for school and the inter-house stage performance competition (Scrano).

"I’m no-one’s idea of an actor or singer, but you give it a go and jump on stage with your mates.

"All those things were really special," Mr Horrell said.

An experienced cricket player, he made his debut for North Otago while still at school and continued to return to the district to play Hawke Cup cricket while he lived in Dunedin and Christchurch.

He had brought his cricketing expertise and coaching skills to the school’s First XI team.

He enjoyed his new teaching role.

There were still traditions he knew from his school days such as assembly being held in the Hall of Memories and the presence of prefects.

The main change was the diversity.

"It’s nice that Oamaru is a bit more diverse than when I left here 15 years ago."

The school was working to include more modern texts by Maori and Pasifika authors, which was really important to make English more relevant for the range of pupils, Mr Horrell said.