Bert is top student
Year 12 student is 2019 Dux Litterarum
To say Bert Downs is a nice young man is an understatement. On Friday he was named Te Awamutu College 2019 Dux Litterarum — the school’s top academic student.
After the awards I heard him tell friends he felt a bit sorry for Nirav Patel who was named Proxime Accessit.
Bert’s logic was that Nirav was Year 13, whereas he (Bert) was only Year 12.
His friends wisely reminded Bert he had taken six Level 3 NCEA subjects — and topped five of them.
Bert was earlier awarded top of subject for Level 3 physics, accounting, electronics, digital technology and maths. He was top of his class for his sixth subject chemistry, beaten to top of subject by Nirav who was in the other chemistry class.
Dux Litterarum was sponsored by Canon and included a $3000 cash award. He also received the University of Waikato Ko Te Tangata (Waikato Schools) Scholarship ($5000) and a Special Award for Outstanding Success in a National Competition — The Skills Organisation’s Brightsparks.
His academic acceleration started when he took Level 1 maths in Year 10, then Level 2 maths and digital technology in Year 11 alongside his other Level 1 subjects.
Last year he received the Bouma Trophy for Academic Excellence as the top Year 11 student.
This year he skipped all remaining Level 2 subjects for all Level 3.
He says he thought he would be in the running for Dux but didn’t want to get his hopes up because he was a Year 12 student and wasn’t sure what the rules were.
Bert also plays trombone and is a member of Senior Band and has played for Jazz Band and is a member of the magazine committee.
But academics, especially electronics, is his passion.
He says he enjoys learning, enjoys challenges and likes to succeed.
Bert enjoys projects that challenge his thinking and doesn’t mind if he has to spend extra time problem solving to come up with a new solution.
These are all attributes that will hold him in good stead as he leaves high school following his exams and starts his software engineering degree at Waikato University.
Bert isn’t sure what this will lead to, but hopes it will open the door and give him plenty of options for a career in technology or computing.
Te Awamutu College principal Tony Membery’s 2018 Senior Prizegiving speech was remembered for ‘getting political’ over the issue of the teacher shortage crisis.
In 2019 he unapologetically continued the theme.
Tony said the crisis had not gone away.
“I am in the midst of recruiting teachers for 2020, competing with the other principals and sifting through the New Zealand — based applicants and the many overseas-based applicants,” he said.
“The majority of overseas applicants I do not deem to be suitable for teaching teenagers in a state co-educational secondary school in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“If the coalition Government thought there would be a mass return of New Zealand trained teachers from their OE — then they got it very wrong,” said Tony.
And he said he knew of one Te Awamutu College Year 13 student going into teacher training next year.
Tony said the issue was not just in New Zealand — but an international problem.
He said the coalition Government has conducted countless reviews and is attempting to synthesise their overall objectives and principles in a statement of National Education and Learning Priorities.
He praised some initiatives, such as the removal of NCEA fees which was welcomed by teachers and parents/ caregivers alike.
“Thousands of students had been deprived of receiving the efforts of their hard work because of money and paperwork,” he said.
It is part of the NCEA Change Package announced by Minster of Education Chris Hipkins, after a robust and pretty stormy “journey”.
Tony said he had personally spoken to the minister about some of the changes because of his concerns at the erosion of opportunities for students to gain qualifications.
He also expressed concerns about the level of control Government was talking of taking back from schools, while saying the teacher issue is still at the forefront.
Tony thanked the board of trustees for their dedication, skills and passion for Te Awamutu College.
He also thanked his staff, saying they had collectively strived for:
● raising student achievement;
● encouraging and monitoring excellent attendance;
● providing a huge array of sporting, cultural, arts, service and leadership opportunities;
● providing the best resources and facilities we can;
● creating learning success for each of our students in a safe, inclusive and caring environment.
He paid special tribute to two staff — Cath Parr (34 years) and Bruce Taylor (46 years) — for their extraordinary, loyal and dedicated service to the school.
“Countless students and colleagues have benefited from their knowledge, skills, passion and kindness.
“To all students who receive certificates and awards today, be proud of your accomplishments. You have excelled,” he said.
“To all students sitting exams, give them your best.”
And he said some needed to ‘go teaching’ as a career.
Te Awamutu College 2019 Dux Litterarum Bert Downs.
Principal Tony Membery reiterated last year’s message about a teaching crisis.
Kauma¯tua Joe Mauriohooho performed the welcome powhiri and karakia.
BOT chairman Craig Yarndley praised his board, senior management and staff, parents and caregivers and students for a successful year.