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Some of the Life and Times of Kay Phillips - 16 May 2023


I am Rosalie Kay Phillips, nee Dahlberg, with my ancestry spanning Scandanavia, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia. I have two brilliant children, my daughter in Melbourne and my son in Palmerston North, and five wonderful grandchildren – two being adult step-grandchildren and three in their younger teens – all happy, healthy and loving. 

After qualifying as a teacher and marrying, I went on to complete an LTCL, then an Advanced Diploma in Teaching, with a B.Ed, B.Ed Hons and an M.Ed following in succession. To say my husband held the fort with our two children for several years is an understatement. Looking at my offspring, Neville obviously did a great job. Meanwhile my friends decided I’d become an eternal student. With mediation and law papers added to my collection years later they were probably right.

I spent over forty years in education as a primary and intermediate teacher, a principal, a literacy adviser around Whanganui and Marton, a manager in Special Education for Hawke’s Bay/Tairawhiti and finally managing a team in the head office of the Ministry of Education.

On moving to Melbourne in 2009, I obtained a job as an administration manager for the owner of a small magazine company. A far cry from education but a wonderful learning curve as I discovered the diverse and fascinating worlds of publishing and trees and much that emanate from them.

Within the Ministry of Education with a team in Student Support I held, amongst other duties, national oversight of:

  • Homeschooling – which ranged from worse than no schooling to just brilliant;
  • Teen Parent Units – such as He Huarahi Tamariki in Tawa. A wonderful concept and a great way to keep girls in the education system; (I loved advocating for them).
  • Student Health and Safety – one of our biggest achievements was when I hired an outdoor education expert to write a manual for all schools. An incredible shame that the staff at an Auckland school which had such a tragedy recently, did not follow our guidelines. Youth Suicide was part of my responsibilities and I represented the Ministry on the interdepartmental committee on Youth Suicide;
  • Resource Teachers of Literacy – from being one of the first four in NZ in the 1980s to having oversight of the national group was a very satisfying part of my career. Part of my reason for joining Rotary was my passion for literacy for all children. My heart weeps to see how far down the international rankings we have plunged;
  • Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour – after resigning from the Ministry in 2007 I was contracted back for two years to examine the structure of the RTLB system as, whilst the majority were excellent teachers and did a huge amount for students with learning and behavioural issues and their teachers, others became isolated islands doing just what they wanted with no regard to the actual role of the RTLB. My report and recommendations helped lead to RTLB becoming a more integral part of the educational structure.

Possibly the most challenging and frustrating position I held was that of a district manager in special education. This was a “meat in the sandwich” role – between teachers and my staff; between parents and Special Education; and also between the Ministry and schools – especially principals seeking ever more funding from a pool that was always too small. Absolutely the worst job was the annual lolly scramble for the precious and necessary teacher aide funding for students with special needs – ranging from intellectual and physical disabilities to students with behavioural problems that created an impossible task for classroom teachers. My staff held meetings to develop new Individual Education Plans with all involved with each child; and then we held meetings in each part of our region to agree on what funding each child would actually receive. Of course there were never enough hours to satisfy everyone and a lot of heart wrenching bargaining went on. Every year I pleaded for a top- up of hours from our Head Office and fortunately every year I received a little extra. To balance these difficulties was the absolute joy of seeing parents, teachers and my staff when a child made progress, even in a minute way at times. It was like seeing a child’s eyes light up in the moment when they first “get” the concept of reading and they correctly read something that they understand.

Education for me was a series of light bulbs flashing and that made the challenges we encountered seem trivial measured against the sheer pleasure of children learning.  I loved my time in Education and would happily repeat it all. Now my focus has become my family and my small circle of friends. Every day I wake up and I’m still alive. Life is good!

Some of the Life and Times of Kay Phillips - 16 May 2023

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