Leanne Summers attends Kimihia Parent College, a teen parenting unit in Ferry Road, which lost its principal, Anne Haines, to cancer earlier this year. Leanne didn’t know Anne—Anne was already on sick leave when Leanne started studying at Kimihia at the beginning of 2010. But Leanne saw the impact Anne’s loss had made on the College. Leanne had obviously made a deep impression on the school. When the idea of a memorial garden in Anne’s honour was raised, but stalled due to lack of leadership from the students, Leanne stepped up.
Leanne said, “Although the garden’s location and basic concept had been planned by Anne and another Kimihia staff member before Anne died, the teachers had introduced the idea to the students, but, apart from a few discussions, no one had taken any action.”
Leanne decided to get things moving.
Leading by inspiring example
Steve Langley, the acting principal, describes Leanne as the ‘main driver’—developing the layout, encouraging students to get involved, and seeking out hire-equipment and plants.
Steve said, “What made the difference is that Leanne is the sort of person who says, ‘Yeah, let’s do that’. And she does it straight away. This energised people around her.” It wasn’t just talk. Steve says, “She led by quiet example – she didn’t leap up and talk at people to motivate them, but quietly led by example.” He added, “She pushed me along. She’d say, ‘Shall we do that now?’ And of course, we did.”
Charm and organisation skills
An example of Leanne’s enthusiasm for the project—and her initiative and drive—was in the hiring of a rotary hoe. The girls had managed to phone around a few hire places, and the best quote they could get for a large rotary hoe was $80–$100. Steve describes a class trip where they drove past a hire company, and Leanne yelled, ‘Stop!’ They stopped, she ran in to the building, and came back out with a big grin. She had negotiated a $50 fee for a morning’s use of a rotary hoe. “She knows how to use a bit of charm’, he says with a grin, ‘and she’s well-organised’.
Leanne has two children, Hayley, almost 3, and Liam, 18 months. She returned to school to finish her NCEA, because the first time round, ‘qualifications weren’t a priority’, but now that she’s a mother, she says that she ‘wants a better job for her kids’ sake’.
Leanne is very modest about it all. She says the languishing garden plans had upset her, and to get things moving again was ‘the respectful thing to do’.
A fitting memorial
And so, the memorial project was done. But not only was it a fitting memorial to Anne, but to the quiet persistence and inspiration of Leanne.
Gina Revill has worked the last three years as an Education for Enterprise (E4E) in-school facilitator across 18 schools in Canterbury and the West Coast. Her enterprising approach has enabled teachers to think outside the square, and bring fresh energy into their classrooms. Gina is an associate lecturer at Middlesex University in London, teaching postgraduate teacher professional development programmes.
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