Hero photograph
Tauranga Girls' College staff Daya Louis (left), Anne Cooke and Jane Finnimore.
Photo by George Novak


Cira Oliver, BOP Times —

Learn about Tauranga Girls' College alumnae and their accomplishments beyond our school gate. This edition we profile 3 staff members who have circled back to Tauranga Girls' College. Please send any potential recommendations to news@tgc.school.nz

We are so lucky to have 16 incredible wāhine on our current staff who were once students of Tauranga Girls' College. These wāhine have circled back to join their school whānau and contribute to the next generation. 

Did you see the article in the Bay of Plenty Times? If you can't access the premium edition read it below:

Some look back on their high school years with fond memories, others with resentment, but 16 women who were once controlled by the bell of Tauranga Girls' College have circled back to join the school family once more.

From packing their backpacks for class to now preparing lessons, 16 former students are at Tauranga Girls' College as teachers.

Anyone who walks into the school will be greeted by receptionist Anne Cooke - a student there more than 50 years ago, and now in her 18th year on the staff.

She is one of 16 staff - or 12 per cent - of those who were once students, and currently, the longest-standing staff member.

She moved back to Tauranga with her family in 1985, the year her daughter was due to start college, who also attended.

A lot has changed since her time there including the uniform she was proud to wear; a summer uniform with a mandatory Panama hat and a beret and tie in the winter.

"Each term a teacher would have us all line in a row, kneeling, and she would come along with a ruler to measure the length of our skirts and if too short we would have to take them [the hems] down and report the next day," she remembered.

Maths teacher Daya Louis is the latest ex-student from the school, having left in 2013, now teaching alongside some of her former teachers who still made a "big impact" on her today.

The former music student never knew what she wanted to do with her life, and took the "scenic route" through university, starting with engineering and ending with mathematics and computer science. "It took a while for me to figure out what I wanted out of a career, and once I had it sorted, teaching seemed like a good option."

Being able to help people, watch them progress and work as a team while still being independent were big points that drew her into the profession.

While her alma mater ticked the boxes of the kind of school she wanted to work at, it wasn't part of the original plan.

However, when the position opened up, "I knew it would be the right fit" and also allowed her to live near her parents in the city she called home.

"A lot has changed," she said, with principal Tara Kanji's new vision for the school, like the change in house names.

"It's good to see the school progress and move with the times. There's more celebration of diversity in people and ideas."

English teacher Jane Finnimore also shopped around before landing a role as a teacher.

The former Head Girl in 1998 held her experience with leadership highly in her memories, as well as having achieved national champion status as a debater.

She leveraged off her abilities and trained as a lawyer, working in communications and law before starting on her career path as a teacher.

"The work was challenging and diverse, but I missed the people factor."

Her inspiration to become a teacher was her former debating coach, Terry Collett, who was also the deputy principal at the school, later becoming Principal at Mount Maunganui College.

"Through him, I saw that every student mattered and that through strong relationships and best practice everyone finds their feet and their future."

Ultimately, the diverse opportunities for students and the evolving nature of teaching drew her back to the place she, for the first time, felt a sense of belonging and value at a school.

"I have learned that when you come home to a place you grew up and a place you are connected to, you have a strong desire to serve and recreate the same magic you experienced," she said.

Principal Tara Kanji said thinking beyond self-interest was a key value at the school which circled back to the alumnae.

"They want to give back. They believe they have something to offer and clearly, their experience at TGC was one in which they value the opportunity to contribute to the next generation".

Kanji said there had been a growth in alumnae returning or wanting to return in the last three years, with potentially more to come.

Alumna, Alumnae, Alumni, Alumnus: What's the difference?

Alumni: Is the plural noun for a group of male and female graduates

Alumnus: Is one male graduate

Alumna: Is one female graduate

Alumnae: A group of female graduates