Who Are We?

(and what’s this all about?)


We are two New Zealand school principals, Steve Zonnevylle and David Armstrong, who both had sabbatical projects based on principal wellness and resilience during 2019. As part of the synthesis and reporting phase, we took the opportunity to “write the book nobody had the time to write” – a collection of thoughts and provocations developed through discussion with colleagues across the country. Our intention is to provoke discussion and challenge school leaders to critically reflect on how they are working. This conversation needs to happen as the current model is neither desirable nor sustainable.

Our backgrounds are not academic, but together we have a combined forty plus years of experience leading New Zealand schools of various sizes and flavours, with nearly sixty combined years in the education sector as a whole.

The ideas shared here have been bouncing around since 2017, and despite sometimes varying viewpoints, we both have the same core aspirations for this collection of thoughts:

For principals/school leaders: to help them create a purposeful, energising, satisfying and sustainable career that is by no means accidental.

And as an outcome of this – 

For students: awesome schools that grow healthy, balanced young people who will go out into the world with the skills and mindsets to make a difference.

Our intention is to challenge you to look at your job from different perspectives and then to do something different. Most of us find that the doing part is the hardest.

Steve and David       

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Way back in 1994, Steve accidentally became the leader of a small rural school. It was back in the time when the whole school could quite happily be lost in the macrocarpa hedge for all of lunchtime and no-one would bat an eyelid.

These days he leads a U5 full primary school with plenty of enterprising students and teachers. If it did have a hedge, it would be much harder for everyone to fit in it.

David was a little later getting to the principalship party. He spent time doing other stuff before starting his teaching career with 36 angelic Year 5s. Eventually, he too volunteered to lead a school. In his case four classrooms, three days teaching weekly, and a shared desk with the school secretary (it also had an awesome hedge).

He is currently leading a U4 full primary not far from Steve’s school in Timaru, right in the middle of the  South Island of New Zealand.