Annie Jones always wanted to be a teacher, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Her secondary school science teacher was such a brilliant educator that she was inspired to study science at university, but once she began she found it wasn’t for her.
“After settling on a career in medical imaging, eventually teaching in the discipline, I was again left lacking the passion. After ten happy years at home with pre-schoolers, I realised how much I loved explaining and sharing knowledge and skills. I consulted a career coach who told me out of a list of 100 suitable careers, a medical imaging technologist was number 99 and English teacher was first. I would become a teacher I told myself, but again life got in the way.”
Her father became terminally ill and understandably became her focus. Then her husband’s business grew exponentially and returning to university was not a priority.
She decided to wait until her four children were older and spent the next few years working on her husband’s business, looking after her terminally ill parents, raising her family and working part-time. Based in Christchurch, her family also endured the stressors of the city’s earthquakes.
“When the big one hit I was sitting reading ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ - one of five novels that were to lead me towards completing 300 level English papers for entry into a postgrad teaching course.”
Their house was badly damaged and two of her adult children who had been working in the city that day were traumatised and needed support. “The constant and violent aftershocks hammered my nerves and prevented any academic endeavours, yet again.
“After it all, I thought to myself, ‘I’m too old to become a teacher. Retirement is looming. I’ll just help students who are behind, after school.’ So, this is what I did. It was transformational. At the end of my working life, I had found myself.”
But then her biggest hurdle of all – cancer. She says it was not a simple straightforward diagnosis, but a rogue, unpredictable beast that was not well documented in New Zealand, and came with a vague prognosis and usually a poor outcome.
“Much has been written about what confronting the end of your life can teach you. It is different for everyone of course, but it has taught me to consider and to be aware of what brings me joy; the type that can lift me up and make my heart sing. If my life was going to end soon I rationalised - I was going to ensure that it was full of things and people that bring me joy.”
That realisation led her to an enrolment at Massey University for a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching, aged 64.
“The study kept me from dwelling on the negatives of my diagnosis and the support I received from the lecturers, my associate teachers, family and friends has been heart-warming and inspirational. Because of multiple surgeries, it has taken me two years instead of one to complete the diploma, but here I am.
“Many have questioned my sanity, me included. ‘What do you do?’ People ask me. ‘Have you retired now that you have superannuation?’ ‘No’, I proudly say, ‘I am a teacher.’”
Mrs Jones teaches Year 7 and 8 Literacy and Year 8 English at Queen Charlotte College in Picton.