Teaching in the West Coast classroom makes lasting memories

Hilary Millard
Hilary Millard
After almost five decades teaching, mostly in South Westland, Hilary Millard has finally called it a day, having made many happy memories.

Mrs Millard started teaching in Christchurch in 1971 and moved to Haast with her husband, Roger (Stretch), and baby in 1976, when he was appointed as sole-charge policeman.

They planned to leave when their children hit high school, but fast forward to 2019 and they are still enjoying life in South Westland, now at Fox Glacier.

"We only came for a few years," Mrs Millard said, laughing.

Her husband loved the outdoors and she loved the little communities and the friendships.

Mrs Millard taught at Haast between 1978 and 1997, her longest stint in any one school. In the early days as a reliever, she had a baby in a cot in the classroom.

The couple later moved to a deer farm at Karangarua, and she first taught at Fox Glacier School in 1997.

"I have just finished teaching the son of someone I taught."

She was teaching principal at Whataroa School for seven years and went back to Fox as relieving principal in 2006.

She also had four years at Jacobs River, and three stints far from home on Pitcairn Island, as an education officer. There were stints at Fox Glacier between relieving principal appointments, and general relieving at Franz Josef, Fox and Haast before she finished teaching at the end of last year.

"Teaching in small, remote schools was challenging. Despite the small numbers, the wide range of ages meant you could have 10 children and eight different levels for reading. However, you knew the children and they benefited from one-to-one attention," she said.

Older children led by example and mentored the younger ones.

With a natural playground on their doorstep in South Westland, children learned in the bush and on the rivers, lakes and glaciers.

"Who could forget watching penguins coming in from the sea or pretending to be the first people to land on the beach and explore the bush?"

Mrs Millard arranged for pupils to visit Orana Wildlife Park, sail historical sites in the Marlborough Sounds, camp in a tepee in the rain, and visit Wellington and even Australia.

More recently, the children got to release kiwi into the bush.

Shantytown also provided an "amazing array of activities", and the South Westland cluster of six schools had been a great support over the years, she said.

Mrs Millard thanked the school secretaries: Mauryne Cannell at Haast, Glennis Condon at Jacobs River and Diane Viney at Whataroa.

She also noted support from boards of trustees and parents who valued education.

Mrs Mallard is the president of the South Westland St John area committee. She says she will now devote more time to patchwork, and exploring in the couple’s new caravan. 


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