Rachael was one of the real characters of her time. She was selected as Head Girl in 1984 in spite of the mischief she got up to during her early years at school. This “kid” had spark and knew how to turn bad into good. Rachael was a really special character as she backed the “underdog” and got the best out of her peers and younger students. Rachael was tall in statue and big in heart!
After her Form 7 year where she made a huge impression on female equality, Rachael went teacher training and qualified in 1991 gaining a Diploma of Teaching from Hamilton Teachers’ College. Her first appointment was Tokoroa. In 1997 she returned to Waikato University and graduated with a Bachelor of Education. Always one to reach the ultimate, Rachael went on to gain her Master of Education at Deakin University in Australia in 2008.
She has had a most interesting and varied working life. As well as teaching positions in England and Cambodia, conducted a disability survey in the Cook Islands, she worked as a Project Manager in Samoa and is currently an Advisor at the Ministry of Education in Timor-Leste on a New Zealand AID programme.
When asked for a little more detail on her Timor-Leste position Rachael forwarded the following interesting brief:
This job I’m doing now I’ve done for three years. Our team’s brief is to help build the capacity of the Timor-Leste Ministry of Education. Originally I was supporting the regional offices to function more effectively and now I’m working in the National Office in Dili. It’s often a bit like the Yes Minister programme – and we have our frustrating times and funny times – but we can see progress being made. There are a lot of difficulties though that make our work interesting and challenging. There’s a big issue with language as the teachers are meant to teach in Portuguese but most of them cannot speak, read or write Portuguese. This makes it difficult especially as the text books and exams are in Portuguese. Hence, many children fail their exams and have to repeat the year over (and over) and many children drop out of school in the first couple of years of school. More than 40% never attend school in the first place. The reasons are varied eg education is not valued by some parents, children are often needed to work at home or in the fields and in some cases schools are too far away or too difficult to reach. In the rainy season some schools are impossible to reach. There are problems with teacher ability (as many teachers have not been trained) and there are problems with teacher lack of attendance. Many schools still don’t have water or toilets. Part of the reason that the situation is so dire is that in 1999 when the Indonesian occupation left, all schools in the country were demolished or burned. As 80 percent of the teachers were Indonesian, Timor-Leste was left without teachers or schools.
Rachael really has reached heights. She climbed Mt Chachani (6075 m) in Peru in 1999 and her and her husband (Jeff Cane) climbed Mt Kilimanjaro (5895 m) in Tanzania in 2004 and Island Peak (6189 m) in Nepal in 2008. As well she has completed a half marathon in Siem Reap, Cambodia in 2003 and cycled up to the mountain village of Namashe (15 hour cycle ride!) in the Shan Region during a four-week cycling trip in Burma.
Among Rachael’s other talents were sports. She was a dynamic netball player representing the school at the North Island Netball Champs in Palmerston North and also playing in numerous Matamata Rep Teams. Basketball was also a passion. Not content with playing Rachael became a active umpire in both sports.
Some of her special memories of Matamata College were the opening of the Wharenui and the Form 5 week-long Commerce Trip to Wellington. Rachael believes that being elected as Head Girl made her realise she had the potential to achieve above her expectations. And that she has done!
Rachael’s younger sister Rebecca also made a very definite mark at school being the captain and inspirational leader to the College A netball team in 1986. She became a very successful businesswoman in London. While in England Rebecca played netball and became a prominent coach of amateur teams. She was eventually awarded the “England Amateur Coach of the Year” – a very high honour. Rebecca has since returned to Matamata and is still involved with coaching locally.