Leader . . . Settling into her new role as Tapanui School principal is Jane Stuart. PHOTO: EVELYN THORN

Few people know Tapanui School better than its new principal, who started teaching there more than 25 years ago.

The school year kicked off last week with Jane Stuart at the helm.

Starting with a year 6 leadership day at Camp Columba on Wednesday, followed by a whole-school Waitangi Day celebration and welcoming ceremony for new pupils on Thursday, she said it had been a nice start to the year and to her new role.

While she had been in the top job for only a few days, she was no stranger to being in the driver’s seat.

She stepped in as acting principal in term one last year when former principal Antony Criglington had a sabbatical, and then again in term four when he stepped down.

She had also been deputy principal and the ‘‘across-school lead teacher for the Pomahaka Kahui Ako’’, she said.

‘‘I guess for me, that was dipping my toes in and checking for me whether this was something I wanted to do.’’

It gave her a taste of leadership and being involved with the strategic direction for schools.

‘‘I’d started to develop relationships with some of the other principals and got a bit more of an insight into what that role was about. I found that it was something that excited me and was something that I wanted to be a part of and felt I could make a difference in.’’

Therefore, when the position was open, she thought it made sense to apply, she said.

‘‘I’ve been invested in the school for a long time and saw it as an opportunity to continue that investment and I’m pretty passionate about our wee community here and just really desire to see it do well and see the children and families have what they need in terms as education.

‘‘As principal I had an opportunity perhaps to make a bigger difference.’’

She was ecstatic and excited when she was offered the job late last year.

‘‘I couldn’t be happier.’’

There were some nerves too, she said.

‘‘I guess there’s that realisation that the buck really does stop here. There is no-one else.’’

She was pleased to be ‘‘stepping into my own shoes rather than someone else’s’’.

Doing things differently was not on her mind, but her big focus would be on ‘‘building a strong sense of team around young people to be the best they can be’’.

‘‘That’s one of my key roles is to build an environment where children feel safe, their whanau feel part of the learning process and the education that their children are getting, they feel valued as their children’s first teacher so-to-speak and we can be a really great team within our community, doing the best for our tamariki here.’’