From Student to Teacher: Journey back to the Alma Mater

For many students, their graduation marks the end of their journey at the school. But for two Dilworth Old Boys, their old classrooms presented the perfect opportunity to make a difference. At the beginning of Term Three in 2020, two Dilworth alumni commenced their teaching roles at the school. Sione Finau (Class of 2007) who was already an Assistant Housemaster at Tyrone, stepped into a teaching role in the Health and P.E Department. Kristopher Calder (Class of 2000) returned to New Zealand after working in the United Arab Emirates to teach DVC and Hard Materials Technology. We spoke to both Finau and Calder about their choice of career path, what motivated them to return to work at Dilworth and what advice or knowledge they would pass on to current Dilworth students after being through a similar journey themselves.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Calder: After a student exchange to Argentina, I studied Graphic Design, then switched to Industrial Design. After finishing my postgraduate studies in teaching, I taught DVC and Hard Materials Technology at Western Springs College.

My wife (from Argentina) and I decided we would like to travel before settling down, buying a house and having kids. So we spent 18 months backpacking, mainly through Latin America and Europe, with the plan to end up teaching internationally. We have spent the last four years living in the United Arab Emirates, where I was teaching at an international school. 

I have a daughter who is almost 2. We like being outdoors, hiking, camping and being at the beach. We also enjoyed travelling when the world was more accessible. 

Finau: Mālō e lelei! Ko hoku hingoa ko Sione Finau. Ko hoku Tamai mei Te’ekiu pea ko hoku Fa’e mei Folaha. As a proud Tongan, and as I write this I reflect on  Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga / Tonga Language Week  in 2020, I wanted to take the time to acknowledge last year's theme of Fakakoloa’o Aoteroa ‘aki ‘a e Lotu Mo’oni / Enriching Aotearoa New Zealand through Prayer and Faith. Given the times we find ourselves in, this theme is of great significance, and I extend my well wishes to our Dilworth and wider communities. ‘Oua lau e kafo kae lau e lava / Stay positive and count your blessings.

Part of my journey happened right here at Dilworth where I spent my senior high school years before moving onto university to obtain my teaching degree. I started as a teacher at Otahuhu College, before moving onto St Peter’s College, and now have come home to teach at Dilworth School. Outside of teaching, I like to spend time with my family or engage in anything related to sport and fitness - it is even better when I can combine both! 


Mr Finau playing rugby as a Dilworth student

When did you start becoming interested in education and decide that you wanted to pursue this as a career? 

Calder: After completing my degree in Industrial Design, I moved to Argentina. It was the time of the Global Financial Crisis and I struggled to get work in Buenos Aires as a Designer. I taught English and took a few design courses which sparked my interest in the education and training side of my subject area. Eventually we moved back to NZ and I did my postgraduate studies in secondary teaching.

Finau: Education has always been important to me (thanks Mum) and I have always had a passion for working with young people, particularly in coaching or youth-related roles. But it was not until I left high school that I thought about pursuing a career in teaching. Combined with my love for sport, I was drawn towards a teaching career in Health and Physical Education. Quite simply, it was one of the best decisions I made and every day I am reminded of this - the connections I make, the young people I work with, and the growth I witness in others and myself. I firmly believe that if we want to invest in our communities, we need to invest in our young people and teaching is a great way to do this.

What motivated you to apply for a role at Dilworth? 

Calder: I was teaching overseas when I applied for the role at Dilworth. Several factors led to my wife and I deciding to come back to NZ. The main reason was for our daughter and the lifestyle we wanted to give her but we were also ready for a change. We were missing friends and family, we weren’t travelling as much as we had been and most of all, we were missing nature (greenery). The job at Dilworth was the final piece to fall into place. It’s the values the school holds and the overriding purpose of the school, to provide young boys with the opportunities to become great men. It did a lot for me and my friends. It felt good that I might be able to contribute in some way to that same experience for others.

Finau: As a Dilworth Old Boy, the growth and experiences I had here hold a special place in my life. The opportunity to play a part in shaping the journey for current and future Dilworth students was an opportunity I did not want to miss out on.

Mr Calder's 7th Form Dilworth Yearbook (Dilworthian) photo

What do you love most about your subject (DVC and Hard Materials Technology & Health and PE)? 

Calder: That the outcomes are tangible, which I believe gives people a true sense of progress and accomplishment. When a student can hold and share their work, it gives them pride. When they can see their work actually become something, it is a reward in itself. Both subjects allow students to bring in their own interests and individuality. Plus some of these skills, workshop skills and practical skills will serve them in the future, regardless of what career or future they pursue. 

Finau: I really enjoy the critical discussions we have in class around topics related to sport, health and physical education. Seeing young minds developing their critical awareness is incredible to witness, and I often learn a thing or two along the way. I also think that one of the biggest misconceptions about Health and Physical Education in schools is not knowing what career it could lead to after high school. Our academic programme in the senior classes delves deep into understanding our physiology and biomechanics, as well as developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills (to name a few). These learnings are transferable across many professions both in and outside of the sporting and/or health sector. It really is an incredible subject to take and I feel privileged to play an important role in its teaching. 

What advice or knowledge would you pass on to current Dilworth students that you wish you would have taken on board/understood when you were a Dilworth student? 

Calder: Success comes from hard work. Pick a goal and don’t stop working hard until you achieve it. I didn’t do too well in my last years at school but got top results in my postgraduate studies. It had nothing to do with intelligence. It was all down to how hard I worked and how much I wanted to achieve my goals. Friends from school who have started and grown their own companies from nothing, have done it only because they worked harder, longer and were more determined than others. 

Finau: Take every opportunity! Now is your time to learn and grow with the support of your Dilworth community. 

Si’i pe kae hā – We are a small island, we are still great

What do you hope to achieve in your role?

Finau: If anything, I want every young man that comes through Dilworth to have a rewarding experience. What that means is ultimately up to each student but it is my responsibility to help each of our students carve out their own pathways towards success. I also value my role as a Tongan teacher and the space I hold for our Pasifika students. I hope to be able to use my own journey to positively inspire the next generation of Pacific leaders in our communities. 

February 17, 2021