End of education era
A 35-year chapter in Porirua’s education history ended last week with the closure of Mana Education Centre.
The Canopies-based library and resource centre shut its doors on Wednesday after a tough economic year.
Teachers and schools had little to spend on resources and training; foot traffic took a dive when the neighbouring post office moved; and the centre had $100,000 of debt hanging around its neck, director Angela Ryan said.
‘‘I’m personally very gutted,’’ she said.
‘‘Teachers used to do a huge amount of personal spending for their classrooms, but when times got tough they were no longer as willing to spend the big bucks.’’
The news was especially wrenching after the centre, a charity, made its first-ever profit last year, Ms Ryan said.
‘‘ We really saw ourselves starting to get the deficit back and moving forward.’’
Teachers were increasingly turning to the internet to get lesson ideas and resources, but they were missing the expertise and advice from three teachers on Mana Education Centre’s staff, Ms Ryan said.
Wellington’s nearest education resource centre was now in Gisborne. ‘‘They’re going to really miss it. People never know what they’re missing until they haven’t got it any longer.’’
Ms Ryan has organised professional development for 10,000 teachers since 2008, but had to cancel two-thirds of training this year following poor registration numbers.
Mana Education Centre began in the 1970s as the Porirua East Resource Centre, a library and teacher drop- in centre behind Windley School.
In 1992, former teacher Ms Ryan took over and expanded the centre to serve all of Porirua and then all of Wellington.
The centre moved to Whitireia grounds in 1994, then to Te Wananga O Aotearoa in 2005. Those moves got the centre into its six-figure debt, which it has not managed to clear.
They were exciting times, however – a particularly special memory for Ms Ryan was seeing the centre’s Whitireia building project managed by one of her former students, a boy she taught at Maraeroa School.
Ms Ryan brought internationally prominent educators to speak to teachers, set up a school caretakers’ development group, and supported Gateway students to work in the shop.
In 2005, the centre hit a rough spot when its overseeing body, Victoria University, pulled its support.
Ms Ryan was convinced by Business Porirua to make the centre a charitable trust.
‘‘They said, ‘We can’t lose this. It’s bringing thousands of teachers to the city.’ ’’
To bolster business, the centre began event- managing conferences and co-ordinating the Mana and Wellington principals’ associ- ations. Education was always the priority, however.
‘‘I’ve really loved working with first-year teachers. Watching the growth of these young teachers, the future of our teaching profession, I’ve found really exciting.
‘‘Teaching is such a rewarding profession. It’s under-rated. I get really upset that they’re not viewed as the professionals they are.
‘‘The work they put in is so important for kids. School is often the one stable thing in kids’ lives.’’
Goodbye: Mana Education Centre staff, from left: Andrea Skipage, Christine Bruce, Susan Arthur and Angela Ryan.