'Gently relentless' approach for Rangiora High's new associate principal

Remihana Emery is known to his students as Matua Remi (Uncle Remi). Photo: David Hill / North...
Remihana Emery is known to his students as Matua Remi (Uncle Remi). Photo: David Hill / North Canterbury News
In guiding students to reach their full potential, Rangiora High School’s new associate principal likes the "gently relentless" approach.

Remihana Emery moved over from Kaiapoi High School to take on the role of associate principal at the start of this year, following the retirement of the school's first associate principal Paul Donnelly.

He said he is driven by his whakaaro — mentality and beliefs — in helping young people find their potential.

His approach has been influenced by former Kaiapoi guidance counsellor Rob Courtney, who has also made the move to Rangiora.

‘‘Rob uses the phrase ‘gently relentless’, which means you keep chipping away and doing it in a way that is mana enhancing to everybody as much as possible.

‘‘Sometimes it is a fear of failure holding them back, and for some adults that anxiety still exists.

‘‘It saddens me because you know the potential those kids have. They are our biggest investment.’’

The role of associate principal was created in 2018 and is ‘‘very fluid’’, Mr Emery said.

‘‘It is about doing the work behind the scenes so [principal] Bruce [Kearney] can connect with the community and other schools.’’

Board of Trustees presiding member Simon Green said the associate principal role was created when the school looked to move on after being managed by a commissioner.

‘‘The board and principal (at the time) realised just how complex and time-intensive school leadership had become for a large school of 1600 students.’’

The school roll has since grown to 1750.

Mr Emery said his career has been ‘‘a roller coaster ride’’.

After leaving school he worked in construction for 15 years, but his life took a different direction after joining a church in Kaiapoi 2004.

Mr Emery and his wife Michelle became youth group leaders and it led to him attending a meeting at Kaiapoi High School as a support person.

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Mr Courtney invited him to volunteer at the school as a mentor and later ‘‘he came to me and said ‘we need you here full time’.’’

Known to his students as Matua Remi (Uncle Remi), he left his job and enrolled at university at the age of 32.

Mr Emery was a teacher at Kaiapoi High School for 10 years teaching maths and te reo.

He became a dean as a third year teacher and was then deputy principal for three years.

‘‘I’m fortunate to have had opportunities presented to me to fast track my career.’’

He made his mark at Kaiapoi as the lead singer of the teachers’ band, The Viking Thunders, which won the teachers equivalent of Rockquest, and was a kapa haka tutor.

‘‘It is an avenue to let off some steam and it is a good way to connect with the kids.

‘‘I have already busted out a few songs at school assemblies at Rangiora and I got the students to give me a beat for ‘We will rock you’.’’

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.