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A new start . . .Jacqui Dillon, Waikoikoi School's new principal loves the community involvement in the small rural school of just 16 pupils. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE

Waikoikoi School’s new principal is relishing the challenges of the top job.

Jacqui Dillon said it was an amazing wee school with a very supportive community around it.

“Everyone around here gets involved in everything we do, they are just fabulous,” she said.

Drawing on the memory of amazingly supportive teachers she had at school and close friends who now work in education saw this Balfour woman become the principal of a rural primary school earlier this year after just seven years in the industry – and education was not Mrs Dillon’s first career choice.

She said she came from an extended family full of nurses and teachers, and yet she had no idea what to do when she finished school.

After attending Northern Southland College, Mrs Dillon headed off to university and completed a Bachelor of Health Science specialising in therapeutic recreation working with people of varying degrees of needs.

“Then I went farming,” she said. She worked on a dairy farm in Waikaia and also pulled pints at a nearby pub.

After completing the post-graduate teaching diploma online through Victoria University, Mrs Dillon joined the Otama School near Gore in 2010, teaching there for the next two years.

After a short break having two children, she then took up a position at the Waikaia school.

“You teach everything when you are a primary school teacher.

“I started with the juniors for one year then went to the senior room for the next four years,” she said.

Then, while preparing to leave teaching and go out contracting with her brother, she worked through the summer months of 2017/18 with him and then saw the principal release position had became available at Waikoikoi School.

She thought it would be a suitable position for her because she had two children (Archie (7) and Maisy (6)) of her own, so she applied for the three days a fortnight job.

“I came over to meet the board and it was there that they said they didn’t have a principal so I became the acting principal for the first term just to get the school started.

“Then I applied for the full-time role of principal and they took me on.”

Now she looks after 16 year 1 to year 6 pupils coming from all over the Waikoikoi/Conical Hills area.

“I’m here for the kids. It’s all about giving them the best that they can have and just because we are tiny it doesn’t mean they should miss out on anything.”

She still lives in Riversdale and drives the 45 minutes each way each day to embrace her role as educator to a group of “fabulous” children.

“I quite like it (the commute). I get a chance to sit down and think things through, as I have to be a mum at home and then be a principal here.”